Sarah Mehain of Vernon won a silver swimming medal in record style on opening day of the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
Mehain was second in the women’s S7 (para) 50-metre butterfly. Her goal was to go a lifetime best in two-arm fly which was previously 38.24. She went 37.2 in the preliminaries, then 37.6 in finals. She beat her Canadian teammate Tess Routliffe of Caledon, Ont. by two-tenths of a second for the silver.
“It was a really solid race for me,” Mehain told CBC TV Sports. ”I’ve made some adjustments to my stroke and it seems to be working out really good.”
Mehain, who swims for McGill Redmen varsity squad in both her freshman and sophomore years, is in her final semester working towards an Arts & Science degree, majoring in sustainability science and sociology. She turned 23 in January.
She has cerebral palsy and is hemiplegic, which results in one side of her body being weaker than the other and not as coordinated. She has previously competed in numerous major competitions, including the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, the 2015 International Paralympic Committee world championships in Glascow, the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and the 2017 CanAm para-swim championships in Windsor, Ont.
Mehain had to work really hard the last couple of months to get fast at the two-arm fly. The rules were changed this year before Commonwealth Games, making it so athletes like Sarah could no longer do the one-arm fly even though it was faster. She had only been doing the one-arm fly in preparation for Rio so she had to retrain the two-arm in a short period of time.
“Initially she didn’t think that she could do it, but she did,” said Sarah’s mother, Mae Hooper.
McGill head coach Peter Carpenter – in his ninth year with the Redmen – said solely focusing on the 50-metre fly helped Mehain achieve her goal. They were told in December about the new regulations.
“It was quite the curveball…She basically had an exemption taken away so she had four months to re-learn something she hadn’t done in four years and I think we did well,” Carpenter told The Morning Star.
Carpenter said Mehain went into what will likely be her only Commonwealth Games with the “Let’s see what I can accomplish” attitude. Schooling commitments prevented her from attending the worlds last October in Mexico.
Mehain won bronze in the 50-metre butterfly at the 2015 International Paralympic Committee world swimming championships in Glasgow.
She also competed at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London and reached the final in four of her six events. She placed sixth in the 50-metre butterfly and seventh in three other events, namely the 50m freestyle, 100m breaststroke and 200m individual medley. Her time in the breaststroke was a Canadian record and she bettered her personal best IM time by six seconds.
Sarah comes from an athletic family. Her older sister, Heather Mehain, is a competitive cross-country skier. A younger sister, Hannah Mehain, skis and swims. Her mother is also competitive in cross-country skiing and earned silver at the 2011 Masters World Cup.
Kelowna swimmer Taylor Ruck, 17, won a gold medal in the 200-metre lifestyle, setting a record in one minute, 54.81 seconds.
Ruck teamed up with Toronto’s Penny Oleksiak and Kayla Sanchez and Alexia Zevnik of Montreal to strike silver in the 4×100 relay won by Australia in a world-record 3:30.05.