Athletics: Aled Davies wins Team GB's first medal at the Olympic Stadium


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The Independent Online

Aled Davies has gone from reluctant convert to Paralympic inspiration after winning Great Britain's athletics first medal of the Games at a noisy Olympic Stadium this morning.

The 21-year-old brought roars of delight from a near capacity crowd as he clinched bronze in the F42/44 shot put with a throw of 13.78 metres.

That worked out at a total of 961 points for the Welsh athlete, who finished 26 points behind Croatian silver medallist Darko Kralj, with Denmark's Jackie Christiansen taking gold.

Davies, who was making his Paralympic debut and whose main event is the discus, saved his longest throw for his sixth and final attempt, although he was already on course for the podium thanks to a third-round effort of 13.63m.

The Bridgend athlete, who represented Wales at swimming before turning his attention to athletics in 2006, was born with talipese and hemi-hemilia in his right leg, which means the limb is missing bones, muscle and ligaments and is supported with a brace.

"As soon as I came out of that tunnel the whole stadium erupted," said Davies, who received another huge ovation when he received his medal.

"They didn't know who I was but I was competing for Great Britain and everyone started screaming.

"You cannot actually imagine and describe how electric it is in there. That atmosphere had my heart going and adrenaline through the roof."

Davies, who has put his sports management course on hold to pursue his Paralympic dream, revealed he had initially been reluctant to get involved in Paralympic sport when growing up.

"Disabled was seen in a different way (in the past) and I really didn't want to be associated with that," said Davies, who admitted such attitudes have changed now.

Watching the swimming at the 2004 Games proved a turning point.

He said: "I didn't really recognise myself as disabled, not knowing anything about disability sport, and I thought, 'that guy's the same as me or he's got what I've got' and I thought then I really would love to be in the Games.

"I remember always telling everyone I'll be on the podium one day.

"It goes to show if you put your heart and soul into everything and commit to training full-time anything can happen."

Now he hopes to prove a similar inspiration to the young people who were cheering him on in the stadium today.

"We can get a lot more people in the sport and make Paralympic sport a big thing in Britain," he added.

"There are people out there that still don't know about it and hopefully now seeing all these people here gives a little taste. It's quite exciting for the future of Paralympic sport."

There was disappointment for the men's team captain Stephen Miller, though, as the 32-year-old had to settle for 11th place in the F31/32/51 club throw.

Miller, who has cerebral palsy, had much higher hopes in his fifth Games, having three times won gold.

But he could only manage 26.70m, which equated to 837 points, way down on his season's best of 30.71m.

He said: "I had three bad throws and when you do that at the Paralympics you pay the price.

"I had a really bad day, I can't make any excuses. I haven't had many bad days in my career, so I guess I was due one. It's just a shame it was in London."

Ireland's John McCarthy was 15th in the club with 20.36m and 727 points.

Hannah Cockroft obliterated the Paralympic record as she pulverised the opposition in the first round of the T34 100m.

The wheelchair racer, who has cerebral palsy, won by over two seconds in 18.24secs, taking almost one-and-a-half seconds off the eight-year-old record, to emphasise her status as gold medal favourite for tonight's final.

Melissa Nicholls failed to progress from the other heat.

Wheelchair racer Shelly Woods qualified for the final of the T54 5,000m. The 26-year-old, who was paralysed from the waist down after falling from a tree aged 11, came home third in 13:12.25.

Rhys Jones was fifth in the first round of the T37 200m, his time of 24.39 quick enough to earn him a place in the final, but Sally Brown could not gain a fastest loser spot.

Ireland's Heather Jameson was seventh in the F37/38 long jump final in a new personal best of 4.11m, which gave her 950 points.