Wolfenden on track for six Paralympic medals
WHEN Chantel Wolfenden was seven she told her mother Michelle Mantle she wanted to swim at the Paralympic Games.
Nine years, hundreds of early starts and several painful operations later, the vibrant Bundaberg bolter with cerebral palsy achieved her dream and won a 400m freestyle gold medal in the process yesterday.
Wolfenden was 12 seconds clear of her nearest rival.
Her victory began a successful night at the pool for Australia's youngest Paralympic team with two gold medals - including a second for 15-year-old Matt Cowdrey - two silver and a bronze.
Wolfenden was tipped to win up to six medals at her first Paralympics and she has delivered so far; she has won gold in her pet event, as well as two silvers and a bronze, with two events yet to swim tomorrow and Monday.
"On the dais I got goosebumps up my spine, it was fantastic," Wolfenden said.
Wolfenden, who has her Fairymead Swimming Club coach Paul Simms by her side as an Australian team coach, began swimming to help spasms in her legs and soon showed exceptional talent, persevering despite challenges such as three operations to cut and lengthen her Achilles tendon.
Cowdrey, the youngest member of the youngest-ever swimming team, also was under pressure to perform in Athens and has risen to the challenge with two gold medals and two world records.
"I just haven't really put too much pressure on myself, I think that's the key," said Cowdrey, who was born without part of his arm.
He was less emotional in the wake of his second gold than after his first gold, saying it was easier.
"But to know that you're the fastest person in the world and you've just won another gold medal at the Paralympics is just amazing, particularly with this crowd and at this stadium," he said.
"It's just alight."
So far, Australia's team members - 18 of whom are aged under 20 - have won four gold, 10 silver and seven bronze medals in the pool.