He took a couple of deep breaths and then grinned his way through the National Anthem. It has been a long time in coming – 34 days, in fact – but a Briton has finally climbed on to the top of the podium in the Aquatics Centre. Jonathan Fox, a 21-year-old Cornishman with a fondness for heavy metal, rounded off a rousing opening day for the host nation at the London Paralympics with Britain's second gold medal last night.
Fox sparked the loudest cheer the Olympic pool has heard with victory in the S7 100m backstroke, hanging on to his lead over the closing 25m with the highly rated Ukrainian teenager Yevheniy Bohodayko edging nearer with every stroke. Fox had enough left to touch first and follow Sarah Storey as British gold winners on day one. There were also silver medals in the pool for Nyree Kindred and Hannah Russell and a judo bronze for Ben Quilter. It had fallen to Mark Colbourne, a former Welsh international volleyballer, to claim Britain's first medal of the Games, a silver in the C1-3 1km cycling time trial. Storey took the first gold with crushing certainty, her seventh in the Paralympics, not long after.
That Britain's first medals arrived in the Velodrome, an arena that has quickly become a temple of British sport, was no surprise. Success in the pool is not a surprise either – swimming has been set the highest medal target of any Paralympic sport with 40 to 50 demanded – but Fox's gold allowed the frustrations of the Olympics to be boisterously banished.
"You want to stop time for a second and feel the atmosphere," said Fox of his reaction to winning as the cheers rolled down the steep stands. Four years ago in Beijing he had won silver in this event and gave due notice that he was capable of going one better yesterday morning. As Storey did in the Velodrome, so Fox did in the heats in the pool, breaking the world record.
He has had a habit of swimming fast in heats and then failing to reproduce that form in evening finals. He did once again fail to match his morning time, but there can be no issue with that as he got the race right last night. Fox tried to shut himself off from the noise that greeted his arrival poolside by listening to his favourite music, heavy metal.
"People don't like my taste in music," he said afterwards with a grin that was soon to shine out from the podium. "It was such an awesome atmosphere. I turned at 50 feeling really good, got to about 75 and my legs blew up. I was dying but I managed to finish it."
The first British Paralympic medal in the pool came in the night's second final. Kindred had harboured hopes of gold, having set a new Paralympic record in the heats. But there was no catching China's Lu Dong, who won the S6 100m backstroke in world record time.
It was Kindred's 10th Paralympic medal, equalling her husband Sascha's tally, although he has the chance to add to his with four events to swim later in the meet. Kindred took time off from swimming last year to have a baby. Now one, Ella was in the Aquatics Centre last night wearing a Union flag dress. "She's ready to cheer on daddy later on in the week," Kindred said.
Russell's silver followed two races later and when Fox touched home it meant that in one night the Paralympians have bettered their Olympic counterparts. At last no longer is the Aquatics Centre a temple of British sporting doom.
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