By Griffin O’Hara
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Swimming traditionally has been a strong suit for the U.S. Deaflympic Team, and this year’s competitors look to continue the trend, with veteran Samantha Elam hitting the podium and Matt Klotz breaking a Games record on their first day in the pool Saturday.
Elam, a member of 2009’s bronze-winning 4×200 freestyle relay team, added to her collection by swimming the 800m freestyle in 4:43.44 to take bronze, nine seconds behind first-place He Yue Yue of China.
After a strong start and leading for the first 25 meters, Elam seemed to tire throughout the race and tapped the wall less than a second short of silver.
The first event is always rough, Elam said, but “each day gets better and better.”
Shortly afterward, Klotz made up for a disappointing eighth-place finish in the 200m freestyle finals by clocking a meet-record 59.63 seconds for the 100m backstroke in his lead-off leg of the 4x100m medley relay race.
The team, however, was unable to capitalize on Klotz’s lead and finished fourth in 4:13.44.
Teammates Alixandria Gavin, Jazmin Hernandez, Catherine Parker, and Edward Freeman also swam but did not qualify for finals in their events. Kenneth Freeman just missed the cut for the 50m breaststroke; and Elam, for the 50m backstroke.
However, coach Marcus Titus was optimistic about the day’s results.
“The whole team did well, I’m happy with the results,” he said.
Sunday, the U.S. has swimmers in the men’s 50m free, women’s 100m breast, men’s 100 back, women’s 400 medley, men’s 100 fly, and women’s 800 relay.
The meet was briefly disrupted by a false start in the Men’s 50 breaststroke. A rope strung across the width of the pool was lowered across the lanes to notify the swimmers of a false start, but the rope was raised before the swimmers reached it, causing the swimmers to complete an unnecessary lap … The officials then had to ask the crowd to refrain from flash photography before the event to stop the flash interfering with the starting lights.