After four years of preparation and an exhausting hour and 40 minutes hand-cycling 48km through the Kent countryside, two British team-mates held hands as they crossed the finish line yesterday at Brands Hatch in an attempt to finish joint-third and see them both receive bronze medals and a shared place on the podium.
It was an endearing wheeze – but Rachel Morris and Karen Darke were foiled. The race officials' response was to knock down their attempt and decree that a photo finish would be used to separate the two. Morris, who in July was hit by a car while training, was adjudged the bronze medallist. The pair initially suggested that they would not be separated – and that if both were not to receive bronze then Morris would not collect her medal. But they relented and Morris received her medal while Halifax's Darke, who had won silver in the time trial on Wednesday, was included in the post-ceremony photo shoot with the medallists.
On the final stretch of the course yesterday, hand-cyclists Morris and Darke found themselves neck and neck. "Halfway around the last lap we had dropped everybody else and we knew we weren't going to catch the Americans and we were safe for bronze," said Morris, a gold medallist in Beijing. "We have worked so hard together these last two years we couldn't bear the thought of crossing the line ahead of each other so we said, 'Let's do it.' We grabbed our hands together 50m out and went through the line together. We wanted to go up together, but the officials said no, which was a real shame, but at least we had a nice moment at the end with our photograph together."
Yesterday's bronze, the 21st for Britain's Paralympic cycling team, was an emotional win for Morris, from Farnham, Surrey, who nearly never made it to the games. In July she had whiplash and shoulder injuries after being hit by a car during racing.
Elsewhere, the battle for second place between Russia and Britain intensified. The two countries both went into day nine with 31 golds, with Britain officially ahead because it has won more medals overall.
A gold from Josie Pearson in the F51 discus meant Britain inched ahead. Pearson, 26, broke the world record for her impairment class along the way with a throw of 6.58m. A keen horse rider in her youth, she suffered permanent spinal damage after a head-on car collision in which her boyfriend died. In Beijing she became the first woman to represent GB in the wheelchair rugby. For London she switched to throwing events.
Dutch wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer continued what has become one of the greatest winning streaks in sporting history – taking gold in the women's singles final. Vergeer has remained unbeaten for the past nine years.Reuse content