Athletics: Aled Davies raises the roof with discus gold and record


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The Independent Online

As he stepped into the discus circle for his sixth and final throw in the Paralympic F42 competition yesterday, Aled Davies was already celebrating. The gold medal was in the bag. Still, as the 80,000 sell-out crowd roared in encouragement, the 21-year-old Welshman managed to channel the electricity into something special. He hurled the discus out to 46.14m, a European record.

It is just as well that they did not put a lid on the Olympic Stadium. It would have been in danger of being lifted by the deafening roar that erupted. It propelled Davies – who was born with hemelia and has a deformed right leg strapped up by a brace – on a lap of honour that drew the kind of acclamation that was afforded to Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Usain Bolt during Olympic time here, leaving the new golden boy gasping for breath.

"I'm knackered," Davies confessed. "I've never run that far in my life. I would have loved to have thanked every individual person in the stadium because without them there wouldn't be this atmosphere. It's what makes the Games. I'm a very patriotic man, so when I saw the Welsh flag I was straight in there. And there were so many little ones out there who wanted an autograph. It's all about inspiring a generation, so I just hope that's what I've done."

One thing Davies certainly succeeded in doing yesterday was take the British Paralympic track and field team past the gold medal tally they recorded in Beijing four years ago. After Hannah Cockcroft's 100m win on Friday and Richard Whitehead's 200m victory on Saturday, it was a third home success in three days of track and field action.

"This is our greatest team and to be a part of it and deliver for the guys is incredible," Davies said. "I am so chuffed. I am good friends with Richard Whitehead and I was inspired by his performance yesterday. I know how much it meant to him, and I just thought, 'I want to do that.'

"He told me to go for it and I did. I gave it my all and it was enough to win gold. I am so happy that I can give something back to this amazing crowd.

"It's incredible competing out there. It's addictive. It's sad to know that that's my last event. After competing in the shot put on Friday I just couldn't wait to get back out there. Those roars are just something out of this world.

"It wouldn't have mattered where I finished. Those guys would have been cheering whatever happened."

In the shot on Friday, Davies finished an unexpected third, winning Britain's first athletics medal of the Games. He spoke then about having to rein back because of the charge the crowd gave him.

"I learned a lot from the shot," he said. "I knew, going in, that I just needed to relax and chill out. I didn't need to build myself up or psych myself up, because the crowd were doing that.

"I didn't know about it but my body did. Adrenaline was carrying me through, and I was thinking, 'Jeez, I am hitting these massive throws and I don't even feel like I am trying.' I think that was the key to getting the gold medal today."

It was a gold for Great Britain and for Wales. Davies, a former member of the Welsh disabled swimming team, hails from Bridgend and now lives and trains in Cardiff. Surely a bow before the nation at one of the autumn rugby union internationals at the Millennium Stadium awaits?

"I am big rugby fan, so I would love to do that," Davies said. "I just want to be recognised as an elite athlete now, because I feel that sometimes we don't get the recognition.

"I just want everyone to know that I have put in all the hard work - to know that this guy has worked hard and he deserves it. That kind of recognition would be an achievement on its own."

Sadly, there was no gold medal achievement on the track for Britain in the morning athletics session yesterday. Shelly Woods lined up as one of the leading contenders in the T54 5,000m final and she was well placed, near the front of the nine-strong field, until it came to the last lap.

The bronze medal winner in Beijing four years ago, the Lancastrian lost touch in the final 200m, fading to eighth as Switzerland's Edith Wolf claimed the gold. "I had a plan and I stuck to it," Woods said. "I wouldn't have raced it any differently. I tried to break the other girls but they were just stronger."