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Long, Raleigh Crossley crowned world champions on penultimate night of competition in Manchester

by Kristen Gowdy

Jessica long blows a kiss to the crowd after winning her 37th world championships title. (Photo by Ralf Kuckuck/USOPC)

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM – For the first time at the 2023 Para Swimming World Championships, Team USA captured multiple world championships in a single night, as Jessica Long (Baltimore, Maryland) and Christie Raleigh Crossley (Toms River, New Jersey) put together gold medal performances to lead the way for the Americans.

Also earning medals for the U.S. were Olivia Chambers (Little Rock, Arkansas) and Leanne Smith (Salem, Massachusetts), who earned silver and bronze, respectively. The four-medal night brings the U.S. total to 21 on the meet with one day of competition remaining at the Manchester Aquatics Centre.

Long’s 37th career world title came in dominant fashion after she broke away early from the rest of the women’s 200-meter individual medley SM8 competition and never looked back. The 29-time Paralympic medalist’s time of 2:44.66 topped the field by nearly four seconds.

“This is what I wanted to do coming into this,” she said. “I’ve definitely been swimming with that mindset. I don’t feel my greatest, I’m definitely under the weather, but I’m so proud of what I was able to do. That one feels really sweet.”

With the win, Long adds her second title in Manchester. For the 31-year-old looking to compete in her sixth Paralympic Games next summer, the two golds have given her confidence heading into the final year of the Paralympic quad.

“This gives me a lot of confidence considering that I have been training mostly by myself,” Long said. “I am so grateful for Frank, Andrew, Ryan, David, the people in my life who have gotten me this far, because at about six weeks out to this meet, I thought I wasn’t ready. Paris is the next stage, and I feel pretty excited about it.”

She now has 54 world championships medals – 37 of which are gold – in her career, which dates back to her worlds debut in 2006.

“It feels pretty amazing,” she said. “I think little Jess would be really proud.”

While Long earned her 37th world title, Raleigh Crossley took home their first, snagging a tight victory in the women’s 100-meter backstroke S9 competition. The world championships rookie sat behind silver medalist Nuria Marques Soto by .15 at the 50-meter turn, but surged in the final meters to claim victory by .24 over the Spaniard.

“I’m extremely happy,” they said. “I miss my kids a lot, I wish they were here with me. It’s been a rough couple of months with some medical issues, so to be able to come in and get the job done was something I’m really proud of.”

Raleigh Crossley, who is a mother of three looking to make her first Paralympic Games next summer, said it meant the world to her to bring home a gold medal for Team USA.

“It means everything,” they said. “When my injury happened, I thought swimming was done for me and that the dream of representing Team USA was over. I’m just super thankful that the Paralympic movement was here and it gave me that second chance.”

Putting together strong performances in the same event were Team USA’s Lizzi Smith (Muncie, Indiana) and Hannah Aspden (Raleigh, North Carolina), who placed fifth and sixth, respectively. Both Paralympic medalists will compete in tomorrow’s 50-meter freestyle S9 race to round out their meets.

In the 400-meter freestyle S13, Chambers raced out to an early lead before dropping back in the second half of the race for her first silver medal of the event and best result of the meet thus far. Her time of 4:37.03 was more than two seconds faster than her morning preliminary heats race.

At the Para level, Chambers specializes in the 400-meter freestyle, which is the longest distance offered in her classification, though she competes in longer distances in her collegiate meets at the University of Northern Iowa.

“That’s probably my favorite race for Para,” she said. “I just like to have fun with it, take it out and try to hold on. Today, I was just trying to race everyone around me and hang onto my pace.”

Chambers is a perfect 5-for-5 in her races in Manchester. She has nabbed four bronzes in addition to today’s silver in what has been an unprecedented world championships debut for the 20-year-old University of Northern Iowa student-athlete.

Though she is primarily a distance swimmer, Chambers has also earned podium spots in two shorter freestyle events, plus the 100-meter butterfly and 100-meter breaststroke. The 200-meter individual medley tomorrow is her final race.   

“It means a whole lot,” Chambers said of her success in Manchester. “It’s not something I expected coming into this. I knew I had a long lineup, so I was just trying to take it race by race, but it really means a lot to medal in all of them.”

Leanne Smith brought home her first medal of the meet in the women’s 200-meter freestyle S3 competition, taking bronze in the event in which she is the world record holder. She swam to a time of 4:21.95.

One of the U.S. team’s top performers at the 2022 world championships in Madeira, Portugal, Smith is still working her way back to top form as she looks to qualify for her second career Paralympic Games.

“It’s been a really tough year for me,” Smith said. “I spent seven months out of the pool, and I had to relearn a lot of basic motor functions. So to be able to make this team and come here and see where I’m at, it’s been a turbulent process to say the least. But I’m happy that journey was able to end here with a medal.”

Competing in his second career world championships, Morgan Ray (St. Augustine, Florida) swam to fourth place in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke SB6 final with a time of 1:23.04. Ray, who was the silver medalist at last year’s world championships in the 100-meter breaststroke, is looking to qualify for his first Paralympic Games as he wraps his individual competition slate in Manchester.

Team USA’s Audrey Kim (Salt Lake City, Utah), who helped the Americans qualify for last night’s mixed 4x100-meter medley relay 34 pts by swimming in the preliminary heats, wrapped her individual competition slate in the morning session with a fifth-place finish in her heat of the women’s 100-meter freestyle S10.

Competition resumes August 6 at 9 a.m. local time with the final 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 5

Jessica Long – women’s 200-meter individual medley SM8
Christie Raleigh Crossley – women’s 100-meter backstroke S9

Olivia Chambers – women’s 400-meter freestyle S13

Leanne Smith – women’s 200-meter freestyle