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US swimmer Arlen claims S6 100m freestyle title

LONDON -- U.S. swimmer Victoria Arlen on Saturday took Britain Ellie Simmonds' S6 100m freestyle title, swimming to victory in a new world record for her first Paralympic gold of the London Games.

The 17-year-old led from the front to take the race in 1 minute 13.33 seconds, more than a second faster than her previous world best, with Beijing champion Simmonds in silver and Tanya Groepper of Germany in third.

Simmonds won both the S6 100m and 400m freestyle titles in Beijing four years ago at the age of just 13. She successfully defended the longer race in London and added the 200m crown as well as a bronze in the 50m.

Arlen was the center of a classification row before the start of the games, which saw her omitted from the start lists then reinstated on appeal.

Concerns were then raised that she could be stripped of any gold medal were she to win but the International Paralympic Committee said that they would reassess her case in August next year.

Arlen's win was her first gold of the Games, after she took silver in the 50m and 400m freestyle and in the 4x100m freestyle 34 points relay.

At the age of 11, the teenager was diagnosed with the neurological condition post-infectious transverse myelitis, which affects the spinal cord and left her in a vegetative state for two years.

In other races, Brazil's Daniel Dias won his sixth gold of the Games in the men's S5 100m freestyle, while Spain's Sebastian Rodriguez, a former member of a banned militant group once jailed for a political killing, took bronze.

Dias, 24, who was born without hands and feet, said: “It (his sixth gold) means the world to me, especially this year when I lost my grandmother.

“I always believed in what I was capable of. I wanted to bring some medals home, but I wasn't sure they would be gold.”

Rodriguez's bronze is his third medal of the Games after he picked up silver in the S9 50m and 200m freestyle. He previously won six gold medals at Sydney and Athens in 2000 and 2004.

He told reporters that at the age of 55, it was hard work to get him to the starting blocks — and said it was impossible to avoid his previous life of crime, although he hoped there would now be more focus on his achievements.

“I have my past, which is unavoidable, as much as I may wish to change it. And also my age and winning medals against kids who could be nearly my grandchildren,” he added.

“It (the media attention) does not bother me. Each of us has their history. The only thing I don't like is that they (the media) said I had hidden the reason for my disability. I never did that.”

Rodriguez, who said his life has been changed by sport, lost the use of his legs after going 432 days without food while in jail. He was released from prison in 1994 and received a government pardon in 2007.

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 Pistorius ends games with gold 
Victoria Arlen, of the United States, reacts after setting a new Paralympic record after she swam in a women's 100-meter freestyle S6 heat at the London 2012 Paralympics Saturday, Sept. 8. (AP)

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