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January 6, 2005

Athletics begins at Deaflympics

From: The Australian, Australia - Jan 6, 2005

SOME of the finest athletes in the world will star in the track and field when competition gets underway at the Deaflympics in Melbourne today.

The 20th Summer Games, which are the largest Deaflympics in history, officially opened in a glittering ceremony at Olympic Park last night. Deaf Queen of the Pool, Cindy-Lu Fitzpatrick, lit the cauldron after singing, fireworks and a message of support for tsunami victims.

Fitzpatrick has won 19 Deaflympic gold medals and holds 12 deaf world records in a 20-year career that ended in 1997.

Today, the first rounds of the track and field begin, including the first rounds of the 100 metres men and women and the qualifying rounds of the men's shot put and women's long jump.

Finals tonight include the 10,000 metres men's and women's final and the men's shot put.

The women's and men's Australian basketball teams will also face off against Greece at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre at 7pm (AEDT) and 9pm respectively.

Australian team spokeswoman Katie Kelly said the home team's strengths were in athletics and swimming.

Australia's best medal prospects include Barton-Smith, who is the deaf world record holder for the javelin with a throw of 70.58 metres, and for the decathlon.

High hopes are also held for Victorian Joanne Lambert, a five-time Deaflympian with two gold medals at Rome, who holds the deaf world records on the track for the 3000m, 5000m and 10,000m.

Swimmer Scott Prosser, 23, is described as Australia's "secret weapon" in the pool in the 400m freestyle, 100m butterfly and relay events.

Australia's best haul in the Deaflympics was six at Rome in 2001.

The Games continue until January 16, with events around Melbourne and in the central Victorian city of Ballarat.

© The Australian