By Griffin O’Hara Media Writer
SOFIA, Bulgaria - In a thrilling day for the U.S. Swimming Team, Matthew Klotz swam to America’s first gold medal of the 2013 Sofia Deaflympics, clocking a Deaflympic and deaf world record time of 58.69 seconds in the 100m backstroke.
It wasn’t the first time Klotz – just 17 years old – broke a 100m backstroke record in his first international competition. Within a span of 24 hours, Klotz set a Deaflympics record time of 59.63 in his 4x100m medley leadoff leg Saturday; edged John Kealy’s deaf world record of 59.45 seconds with a time of 59.25 seconds in the preliminary Sunday morning; and bested that time by more than a half second just hours later in the final.
“It was pretty exciting because I kept getting faster and faster,” Klotz said. “It was a close race. Two Japan swimmers finished right behind me.”
Klotz has two more opportunities coming up in the pool: the 50m backstroke on Wednesday and the 200m backstroke on Friday.
“I feel really confident about my 200 back, and my 50 back,” he said. “But you never know, though. They’ll be gunning for me.”
After Klotz made his splash, however, the U.S. women’s 4x200m freestyle team suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the relay. Seeded third, the women finished fourth with a time of 9:20.24, just seconds behind China, which finished in 9:15.99.
Deaflympics veteran Peggy Liang led off with a team-best 2:11.65. Alixandria Gavin followed with 2:22.31, and Jazmin Hernandez swam the third leg in 2:32.87. Samantha Elam, also a veteran, wrapped it up with a time of 2:13.41.
In the 400m medley, Catherine Parker came in seventh, with a time of 6:36.80, behind Kateryna Avramenko of Ukraine, who swam a 5:51.71. Yue Yue He of China finished first with a time of 5:04.07.