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Freney enters seventh heaven with freestyle gold

LONDON -- Australia's Jacqueline Freney on Thursday won the women's S7 400-meter freestyle, bagging her seventh gold of the London Paralympics, as compatriot Matthew Cowdrey took a career 12th and Natalie du Toit again shined.

“Seven? I'm in heaven. It's just unbelievable how good this meet's been for me. It's probably been one of my best meets to date. I couldn't be more proud of myself,” the 20-year-old told reporters.

Freney's achievement means that she has now surpassed Siobhan Paton's record of six-straight gold medals at the Sydney Games 12 years ago.

She was a bronze medalist in the event in Beijing and broke her own world record during the race to set a new best of 4 minutes 59.02 seconds — and said she was pleased to be among Paralympic greats.

“I didn't think I'd ever be able to achieve what they've achieved but it's realistic now. Let's just say I have another goal in mind for Rio (de Janeiro in 2016),” she added.

Earlier, Cowdrey shrugged off a virtually sleepless night since he became Australia's most-decorated Paralympic athlete on Wednesday to take the men's SM9 200m individual medley.

But Cowdrey said he had under-estimated the effect of the achievement, as he returned to the Aquatics Centre for Friday's heat and final in front of his parents, who had flown in especially to watch.

“That one hurt. I'm not going to lie at all about that,” he told reporters.

“I don't think I fully understood how emotionally and physically draining it was last night and the last couple of days, and being a 10-day (competition) it definitely is a lot bigger and harder than what we're used to.

“I only got a couple of hours' sleep last night. After three or four hours' sleep this afternoon, I would have been ready to come out and go for it tonight.”

Natalie Du Toit of South Africa also took her third games gold as she prepared to bring the curtain down on her glittering career that has not only seen her win 13 Paralympic golds but also compete at the Commonwealth Games and Olympics.

The 28-year-old won the women's SM9 200m individual medal and was roared to victory by the crowd in the 17,500-capacity Aquatics Centre but said she had mixed emotions heading into her final race on Friday, the S9 100m freestyle.

Du Toit is the current world record holder at the event.

“(I'm) sad, relieved and I think scared because I have no idea what I'm going to do but also scared because those girls are swimming well. To walk away with a medal will be very special with it being the last competition,” she said.

“Hopefully afterwards I won't cry, I'm gonna give it everything,” she added but ruled out changing her mind about retirement.

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