TODAY |

Cameron Leslie claims NZ's fourth gold at World Para Swimming Champs with superb comeback performance


Cameron Leslie has earned New Zealand's fourth gold medal at this year's Para Swimming World Championships in London this morning thanks to his late surge in the S4 50m backstroke final.

Leslie had previously qualified third for the final but faced stiff competition for the gold from Russia's Roman Zhdanov who set the world record earlier this morning during the heats.

However, Leslie felt he had more to give going into the medal race.

“After this morning, I knew I could do better and I knew I could hold a higher rating for longer so that was what we went out to do," Leslie said.

Leslie started strong out of the blocks but was still sitting third at the the halfway mark.

Then he found his stride.

Leslie surged in the final half of the race to pass race leader Arnost Petracek from the Czech Republic with 15m to go and held on for the win with an Oceanic record time of 42:13. Petracek took silver and Zhdanov had to settle for third.

"I was really surprised the Russian guy in lane four didn’t go so well," Leslie said. 

"He broke a world record in the morning and in the evening he didn’t go so well, but that’s international racing. You’ve got to be able to step it up in the evening and race when it matters.” 

Leslie's victory adds to an impressive week for the Kiwi athlete who helped the Wheel Blacks, New Zealand's wheelchair rugby, claim bronze at the Asia Oceania Zonal Championships in South Korea and with it, a Paralympics qualifying berth.

“It’s been a pretty hectic week. I’ve played wheel chair rugby for nine years for New Zealand and never achieved a goal [qualifying for the Paralympics] so I guess it’s been an emotional week, achieving a goal with your team mates like that and then coming away to a swimming competition that I’m really familiar with.

"It’s been a really hard balancing act but luckily there’s a really good support team to help you make the right choices to put your best foot forward when it comes to a race like this."

Leslie's win this morning adds to the three golds already secured by Sophie Pascoe so far.