Athletics: Electric support powers Davies to a surprise medal
It was not quite Farah fever pitch, but Britain's Paralympics could still feel the force.
The London 2012 track and field arena reopened for competitive business yesterday and the 80,000 sell-out crowd made their patriotic presence felt.
"I heard a lot of the Olympic guys talk about it but you cannot actually imagine how electric it is out there," Aled Davies said. The East End electricity helped to power the 21-year-old Welshman to the first British medal in the athletics programme at the London Paralympics. A bronze in the F42/44 shot put came as an unexpected bonus in what is a secondary event for the discus specialist.
"The atmosphere was incredible," Davies added. "As soon as I came out of that tunnel, the whole stadium erupted. They didn't know who I was but I was competing for Great Britain and everyone just started screaming. It was like, 'Wow! It's here. Let's do it.' I actually had to slow down my technique and go at 75 per cent effort because the crowd was carrying me so much. When I was giving it 100 per cent I just couldn't control the shot. You saw that in the first couple of rounds. I had to chill out because that atmosphere had my heart pounding and the adrenalin going through the roof."
A third-round effort of 13.78m was the best of a six-throw series that earned Davies third place behind Jackie Christiansen of Denmark (18.16m) and Darko Kralj of Croatia (14.21m).
"I can't believe it," Davies said. "The shot put is my second event. I really wanted to go out there and do the team proud but I didn't expect a medal. I'm overwhelmed."
Davies started his sporting life as a swimmer, competing in able-bodied events for his club in Bridgend. He was born with fibular hemimelia ("my right leg is pretty much dead from above the knee down") but didn't think of competing in events for the disabled until he saw the 2004 Paralympics on television.
"Disabled was seen as different back then and I really didn't want to be associated with that," Davies confessed. "I always saw myself as able-bodied. It's funny, because when I went from an able-bodied swimming club to a disabled swimming club I went from being last to first. It showed that when I was on an equal playing field I was quite good.
"I saw a bit of the Paralympic coverage in 2004 and I thought, 'Oh yeah, that guy's got the same as I've got.' I thought then that I really would love to be in the Games. I remember telling people, 'I'll be on the podium one day'. And here we are."
Davies competed for Wales as a disabled swimmer before changing sports in 2005. "I went to a talent day and tried a load of things," he recalled. "I discovered somehow that I had a talent for throwing things about, which is unusual. But, hey, I'm not complaining."
Stephen Miller's talent for club throwing has earned him four Paralympic medals – three golds and a bronze – but, sadly, the British team captain was unable to secure a place on the podium in the F31/32/51 competition yesterday. The 32-year-old Gateshead Harrier (above) finished 11th with 26.70m.
"It was bad, really bad," Miller lamented. "It's tough to take. I've never had that experience. I've had so much success in my career. I don't really know what to make of it.
"All I can say is I gave it my best shot. I wanted to do a lot better but for some reason it didn't happen."
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