Numerous American Records Fall as USA Deaf Swimming Completes Strong Showing at the 2019 World Deaf Swimming Championships

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL—On Saturday August 31, the Americans closed out a strong performance at the 2019 World Deaf Swimming Championships at the Centro Brasileiro Paralimpico in São Paulo, Brazil. Through six days of competition, the 2019 squad, consisting of veterans and first-time competitors, set a series of new personal bests and American records, which bodes well for the future of USA Deaf Swimming. 

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Emily Massengale celebrates the Americans’ first medal, a bronze in the Women’s 400 Freestyle (Photo courtesy USA Deaf Swimming)

On day one, eight Americans, including three first-timers, made the finals of their events and swam their personal bests in the final. Molly Linkins’ time of 2:43.69 in the Women’s 200 Breaststroke smashed Jessica Weeden’s American record of 2:50.29, set by Jessica Weeden in 2009. On that same evening, Emily Massengale’s personal best of 4:43.27 in the Women’s 400 Freestyle, behind Russia’s Polina Bilalova (Gold) and Victorya Terentyeva (Silver), earned the first bronze medal for the Americans.

The second day saw another American record fall as Collin Davis’ 8:52.04 in Men’s 800 Freestyle eclipsed Brian Bennett’s 2007 time of 9:04.68 and earned Davis a fifth-place finish. Massengale again headlined the Americans with another silver medal in the Women’s 200 Backstroke with a personal best time of 2:24.76, behind Russia’s Olga Kliuchnikova, who shattered the World Championship record with a time of 2:19.80. The Men’s 4 x 100 Medley Relay narrowly missed out on a medal, finishing 5th with a time of 4:07.51.

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Emily Massengale (left) poses with her silver medal following the Women’s 200 Backstroke. Russia’s Olga Kliuchnikova’s gold medal performance shattered the World Championship record with a time of 2:19.80 (Photo courtesy USA Deaf Swimming)

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American Molly Likins stands on the podium following her silver medal performance in the Women’s 50 Breaststroke (Photo courtesy USA Deaf Swimming)

The next day saw Massengale edge Japan’s Ikuha Nakahigashi to take her second silver and third medal of the Championships with a personal best time of 18:45.43 in the Women’s 1500M Freestyle. In the Women’s 50 Breaststroke, Molly Likins broke her own American Deaf Record of 34.11 set during the preliminary heat earlier on the same morning, with a time of 33.66 in the final to capture the silver behind Ukraine’s Mariia Rezhylo, whose time of 31.97 set a new Deaf World Record. In the Women’s 200 Butterfly, Carli Cronk, just thirteen years old and the youngest member of the American squad, captured the silver—her first medal—with a personal best time of 2:29.67, giving the Americans three silver medals on day three.

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Youngster Carli Cronk captured the silver in Women’s 200 Butterfly (Photo courtesy USA Deaf Swimming)

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Cooper Willets poses with South Africa’s Terence Parkin, Olympic silver medalist and most decorated Deaflympian of all time (Photo courtesy USA Deaf Swimming)

On day four, Cronk narrowly missed a medal in the Women’s 200 Freestyle with a fourth-place finish and a personal best time of 2:14.22. In the Men’s 200 Breaststroke, Cooper Willetts narrowly missed a bronze medal in the finals when Russia’s Nikita Semin out-touched him at the wall. Willets finished fourth, just ahead of South Africa’s Terence Parkin, an Olympic silver medalist and the most decorated Deaflympian of all time.

Cronk got things going for the Americans on Day 5 with a bronze in the Women’s 800 Freestyle with a time of 9:39.96, and added to her medal haul with a time of 1:06.20 in the Women’s 100 Butterfly, good for another bronze and her third medal of the World Championships. Likins also claimed her second silver medal by breaking her own Deaf American Record in the Women’s 100 Breaststroke, set earlier in the day, with a time of 1:14.36. The Women’s 400 Medley Relay team of Massengale, Likins, Brooke Thompson, and Kaitlyn Weatherby set a new Deaf American Record with a time of 4:33.08 in the finals, finishing fourth just behind Belarus. The quartet’s time eclipsed the previous American Record, set by Massengale, Likins, Elizabeth Cocker, and Alyssa Greymont at the 2017 Deaflympics in Samsun, Turkey. 

On the final day, Emily Massengale added to her medal total with a silver in the Women’s 100 Backstroke with a time of 1:06.98. Massengale’s silver was the swimmer’s third of the Championships and fourth medal overall. In the marquee event of the World Championships, the 4×100 relay, the Men’s lineup of Daniel Pletenets, Cooper Willetts, Matthew Zou, and Collin Davis narrowly missed medaling with a fourth-place finish.

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Collin Davis, shown here in the Men’s 200 Backstroke, set a new Deaf American Record in the Men’s 800 Freestyle

The Americans finished fifth overall in the total medal count, with no gold medals, six silver medals, and three bronze medals, giving the team a total of nine medals. Russia finished atop the medal standings, with 26 gold, 13 silver, and 11 bronze, for 50 medals total. Ukraine finished second, with 20 medals total (3 gold), followed by Japan (6 gold), and Poland, with 13 overall (3 gold).

With eight athletes under the age of eighteen, including seven first-time National Team members, the future looks bright for USA Deaf Swimming. Coached by Brad Robbins, Head Coach, from Tigard Tualatin Swim Club in Oregon; and Chris Daly, Assistant Coach, from Chico Aquajets in Chico, California, the team consists of returning athletes Liz Cocker, Molly Likins, Kaitlyn Weatherby, Emily Massengale, Tyler Brown, Cooper Willetts, and Matthew Zou and new team members Daniel Pletenets, Collin Davis, Carli Cronk, Samantha Fujii, Trysta Duerson, Brooke Thompson, and Anquniece Wheeler.

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2019 USA Deaf Swimming National Team (Photo courtesy USA Deaf Swimming)

USA Deaf Swimming National Team Members

 

Elizabeth Cocker (California)* Kaitlyn Weatherby (New Jersey)*
Carli Cronk (Texas) Anquniece Wheeler (Michigan)
Trysta Duerson (Oklahoma) Tyler Brown (Kentucky)*
Samanth Fujii (California) Collin Davis (North Carolina)
Molly Likins (Michigan)* Daniel Pletenets (Florida)
Emily Massengale (Florida)* Cooper Willetts (Texas)*
Brooke Thompson (Michigan) Matthew Zou (Maryland)*

*Returning team member

For more recaps of USA Deaf Swimming at the World Championships, visit https://www.teamunify.com/News.jsp?tabid=160253&team=usds.

For complete results, visit the 2019 World Deaf Swimming Championships website: https://wdsc2019.wordpress.com/results/

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