Crowds roar GB stars to gold and world records in the Velodrome and the pool
Friday 31 August 2012
One might expect having no arms to be an insurmountable disadvantage in a backstroke swimming race against opponents that do have them. Not so.
London had its first taste of Paralympic competition yesterday, and it proved a compelling appetiser of what is to follow in the next 10 days.
The roar in the Aquatics Centre was never louder than when Chinese swimmers Zheng Tao and Lu Dong had won the men's and women's 100-metre S6 backstroke golds in world record times.
It is a category for people who, be it through missing limbs, achondroplasia (dwarfism) or various other conditions, find it difficult to maintain a consistent direction of travel through the water. But Tao and Dong seemed to have no difficulty whatsoever, despite their missing arms, butterfly leg-kicking down the pool before banging their heads straight on to the finishing pad to both break the world records.
Britain's Jonathan Fox claimed our first swimming gold last night, having earlier broken the world record in his men's S7 100m backstroke heat, while Hannah Russell, a 16-year-old debutante from Chertsey in Surrey set a new world best in the S12 400m freestyle swimming before claiming silver in the final.
Russell, whose visual impairment means that all she can make out are the flags above the pool and the markings at the bottom, described the moment as "a dream come true".
The first British gold of the day was won by cyclist Sarah Storey who, 20 years after claiming her first Paralympic medal as a swimmer in Barcelona, smashed the 3,000m pursuit world record in the heats.
Storey was herself beaten to the title of first British medallist of these Paralympic Games by her cycling team-mate Mark Colbourne, who claimed silver in the 1km time trial having been roared all the way round a velodrome every bit as packed as when Hoy, Pendleton and the rest were riding round it not so long ago.
Colborne's first British medal came later in the day than many had expected. Di Coates, competing in her eighth games in the 10m rifle shooting competition, has won three gold medals, a silver and a bronze before now, but yesterday finished in ninth place in qualifying, just missing out on a place in the final."It's a disappointment," the 58-year-old said. "I was trying to keep it together, but it just didn't work for me today."
Meanwhile, there was shock at the Excel Centre, where visually impaired judo world champion Ben Quilter lost his first round match, but came back to win bronze in the repechage.
The wheelchair basketball competitions began at the North Greenwich Arena. Great Britain's women were heavily beaten by the Netherlands, but the bigger shock for the audience, at least, was the sheer number of times the players were knocked over and clean out of their seats.
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