NewsJulia Gaffney

Jaffe, Chambers and Gaffney shine on fifth day of 2023 Para Swimming World Championships

by Kristen Gowdy

Olivia Chambers (Photo by Ralf Kuckuck/USOPC)

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM – The trio of Olivia Chambers (Little Rock, Arkansas), Julia Gaffney (Mayflower, Arkansas) and Noah Jaffe (Carlsbad, California) led Team USA with another medal apiece on the fifth night of competition at the 2023 Para Swimming World Series at the Manchester Aquatics Centre.

Chambers, Gaffney and Jaffe have combined for 11 of the Americans’ 17 total medals in Manchester. The total places Team USA eighth in the overall medal standings out of 67 countries competing at these championships.

Additionally, Chambers joins Jaffe as the first two Team USA athletes to earn four medals in Manchester. Both 20-year-olds are in their first career world championships. Gaffney, meanwhile, has earned two silvers and a bronze in Manchester as she races in her fourth world championships.

Jaffe’s fourth medal in Manchester came in the men’s 50-meter freestyle S8, where he took silver in 27.14. The world championships rookie was barely out-touched at the wall by gold medal winner Dimosthenis Michalentzakis of Greece, who finished .13 seconds ahead of Jaffe. In a tight race where the top six swimmers touched the wall within a second of one another, Jaffe secured silver by .17 seconds over bronze medalist Gabriel Silva de Souza of Brazil. 

A member of Team USA in the relay prelims, the freestyle finals were Jaffe’s third swim of the day. He has competed nearly every day in Manchester, and said he is continuing to rely on his training as he shoulders the workload.

“I’m used to swimming more than one race in a day,” Jaffe said. “So having just one per day, I feel like that training has helped me a lot.”

As he looks to qualify for his first Paralympic Games next summer, he said the experience he has gained at this meet will be invaluable.

“It gives me so much confidence,” he said. “My goal in 2023 was just to make the team, I didn’t really think I would be where I am now, so this meet has really grown my confidence a ton.”

The 20-year-old University of California, Berkeley, student has wrapped his individual program, but competed in the preliminary heats for Team USA in the 4x100-meter mixed medley relay 34 points this morning and has the potential to be added to a second relay team on Sunday.

The two-time Paralympic medalist Gaffney, who has already earned two silver medals in Manchester, nabbed her third medal by taking bronze in the women’s 50-meter butterfly S7. It is her best international finish in the event since 2019, when she earned the silver medal at world championships.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” she said. “I’m glad I stuck with it. I just wanted to go in and get my tempo up and have a really strong finish, so I’m happy with that, and excited to get on the podium again.”

Heading into the final year of the Paralympic quad, Gaffney said a focal point for her training will be on the mental side of the sport as she looks to qualify for her second Paralympic Games.

“I just want to work on swimming smarter,” she said. “Just constantly learning and getting better, getting stronger, and also working on my mental game as well.”

Gaffney still has the 100-meter freestyle – the race in which she is the 2017 world championships bronze medalist – left on her schedule in Manchester.

Picking up her fourth medal in her world championships debut was Chambers, who has taken home bronze in every event she has swam thus far in Manchester. In today’s women’s 50-meter freestyle S13, Chambers out-touched Japan’s Ayano Tsujiuchi at the wall by .05 to secure the podium in 27.69 seconds.

With one of Team USA’s busiest schedules this meet, Chambers has completed four of the six races she has scheduled over the seven-day competition. She will compete Aug. 5 in the 400-meter freestyle before finishing her competition with the 200-meter individual medley. 

Already a medalist in Manchester, five-time Paralympic medalist Elizabeth Marks (Colorado Springs, Colorado) missed her second medal of the meet by just .3 seconds after putting together a strong women’s 50-meter freestyle S6 final. Marks, who took the bronze medal in the 200-meter individual medley earlier in the week, secured the fourth-place result in 34.34.

The Team USA relay squad of Christie Raleigh Crossley (Toms River, New Jersey), Morgan Ray (St. Augustine, Florida), Lizzi Smith (Muncie, Indiana) and Jamal Hill (Inglewood, California) teamed for a fifth-place finish in the mixed 4x100-meter medley relay 34pts final. With Raleigh Crossley competing in her signature backstroke, Ray in breaststroke, Smith in butterfly and Hill anchoring with the freestyle leg, the team secured their position with a time of 4:40.88.

Qualifying the finals relay team for the evening session was the Team USA preliminary heats relay team comprised of Hannah Aspden (Raleigh, North Carolina), Ray, Jaffe, and Audrey Kim (Salt Lake City, Utah). The team placed fourth in their heat of the relay and qualified sixth overall to pave the way for their teammates’ spot in the final.

Team USA will field one more relay team in Manchester in the mixed 4x100 freestyle relay 34pts on Aug. 6. 

Recording her best finish in Manchester was 10-time world champion Leanne Smith (Salem, Massachusetts), who qualified for the final and raced to sixth place in the women’s 50-meter freestyle S3. Smith, the reigning world champion and current world record holder in the event, is working her way back to top form.

Paralympian Summer Schmit (Stillwater, Minnesota) wrapped her second career world championships with a 10th-place finish in the women’s 400-meter freestyle S9 competition. Schmit just finished her first season as a member of the University of Minnesota’s swim team and will head into her second year of college as she trains to qualify for Paris 2024. Two-time Paralympian McClain Hermes (Dacula, Georgia) also recorded a 10th-place finish in the women’s 100-meter freestyle S11 and will finish her meet with the 400-meter freestyle on Aug. 6.

Competition resumes August 5 at 9 a.m. local time with the penultimate day of preliminary heats. All sessions will be streamed live on NBC’s Peacock, and live results can be found here. Follow U.S. Paralympics Swimming on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates and results throughout the competition, which runs through August 6.

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Team USA Medals – August 4

Noah Jaffe – men’s 50-meter freestyle S8

Olivia Chambers – women’s 50-meter freestyle S13
Julia Gaffney – women’s 50-meter butterfly S7