London 2012: 'Ireland's Usain Bolt' takes home 100m gold
Sprinter's victory one of the highlights of a day full of action
Emily Dugan is social affairs correspondent for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards.
Sunday 02 September 2012
Ireland's Jason Smyth last night proved that he was still the fastest Paralympian on the planet, running the T13 100 metres in a record-breaking 10.46 seconds. The man whom Tyson Gay describes as “the most gifted sprinter on the planet” took home Ireland's third gold of the Games.
The Usain Bolt of the Paralympics will hope to do the double and defend his 200m title this week. The Derry athlete spread out his arms in celebration as he crossed the line, winning by a margin not even Bolt could dream of. The reigning champion won by more than half a second ahead of Cuban Luis Felipe Gutierrez.
Smyth, who is visually impaired because of Stargardt disease, was disappointed not to qualify for the Olympics. He missed the 100m "A" standard by just 0.04 seconds.
Sarah Storey and her husband, Barney, took home a golden double yesterday in the Velodrome. Barney was the first to grab a gold, piloting Neil Fachie in the 1km tandem and setting a new world record.
Just a few hours later, Sarah took her second gold of the Games – and the ninth of her Paralympic career – in the C4-5 500m time trial. Her time of just over 36 seconds was only 3 seconds slower than the Olympic record.
In a tribute to the crowd's support, Sarah said: "It does feel that your own family has grown by about 6,000 people. I am so lucky to have had the chance to run in front of them."
Her real family was cheering, too. Sarah's mother, Mary Storey, was standing with relatives, all dressed in T-shirts with the word "Sarah" printed on the back. She said of the couple: "I'm so proud of them. We're just wondering how many postboxes there are in Disley to paint."
Barney Storey said of his wife after winning his own gold: "I think she is going to try to outdo me later by getting another one [gold medal], so I had to try to do something to keep the male end up in the Storey household."
Fachie, who has the congenital eye condition retinitis pigmentosa, said after his win with Barney: "If it wasn't for this crowd, we wouldn't have done it. In the last lap it was the crowd that took me home."
The pair cycled a kilometre in a lightning 1.01 minutes, making it a second off the Olympic world record at the same distance for solo cyclists.
Perhaps it was all that rum and curry he had in the weeks leading up to the Games or maybe it just wasn't his day. Whatever the reason, Lee Pearson ended his Paralympic golden streak yesterday, taking silver in the dressage Grade 1b individual championship. Pearson has gone unbeaten in three consecutive Paralympic Games, taking three golds home from each.
The 38-year-old was the favourite to take his 10th medal yesterday and had been hoping to beat Tanni Grey- Thompson's record of 11 golds at London. But yesterday's silver will mean he can now only hope to equal it. But Pearson wasn't complaining. He said: "It's been a tough competition, a tough year, and Gentleman is a tough horse to keep on top of his game. I'm genuinely delighted with silver."
The woman who stole his crown was Australian Joann Formosa, 13 years Pearson's senior. Her score of 75.826 per cent aboard Worldwide PB took her to the top of the leaderboard, ahead of Pearson's 75.391 per cent. Today he will begin competing in the team dressage event.
Newcomer Natasha Baker took gold on her Paralympic debut in the Grade II individual equestrian event, getting a record score of 76.857 per cent. Riding Cabral, she beat defending champion Britta Napel of Germany. She said: "We kind of stepped it up a gear today − he just felt amazing. His warm-up was the best he has ever done. He is such a responsive horse."
Richard Whitehead, aided by his lucky pants, raced to an emotional victory in the T42 men's 200m at the Olympic Stadium and smashed his own world record in the process.
The Brit claimed gold in 24.38 seconds, just beating the 24.93 seconds he set at the European Championships in June. He said after the race that he was wearing the lucky black pants he has had since 2004 (he has washed them in the intervening years). "Maybe I'll be the next Calvin Klein underwear model," he said.
The 36-year-old marathon world-record holder, who turned to a track event after learning that the marathon was not a Paralympic event, flexed his muscles as he crossed the line – ahead of America's Shaquille Vance, silver, and Germany's Heinrich Popow, bronze – in tribute to the Olympic cyclist Sir Chris Hoy. Whitehead, who said he was fighting back tears at the end, dedicated his win to everyone who had supported him, particularly his friend Simon Mellows, who passed away in 2005. Mellows's widow and children were in the crowd yesterday.
"I worked my arse off to be the best athlete I can be," said Whitehead, who rushed over to celebrate with his parents and fiancée, Valerie, who is expecting their baby in January. "I always think about things that are important to me. You have to push through barriers and go even further."
The Nottingham man, a double above-the-knee amputee, had a "terrible start", but stormed down the final 50m of the home straight.
The cyclist Jody Cundy had the chance to make up for Friday's bitter disappointment yesterday, fighting for bronze in the C4 pursuit. Speaking with his voice full of emotion after the race, he said: "It's a gold for me." He added: "I knew I had good legs, but I haven't done any pursuit training since February because I've been focusing on the kilo."
The Wisbech 33-year-old's expletive-filled rage at being disqualified for a false start in the kilometre race on Friday was one of GB's most poignant moments of the Games so far, but yesterday he fought his way to third place.
Speaking about Friday's disappointment, Cundy, a lower-leg amputee, said: "'I cried quite a lot... just trying to comprehend what had happened and what it meant."
Wheels on fire
Jon-Allan Butterworth, the most outspoken athlete in the GB team, got his second silver medal in the Velodrome yesterday in the C5 pursuit. He rode a personal best to come second against Michael Gallagher from Australia.
Butterworth last week questioned the prowess of the Paralympic athletics team, saying that most of GB's Paralympians were "just having a laugh", and last night he showed some frustration that he had not yet stood at the top of the podium. He said: "I'm the only rider in the team who's doing five events. I joked, saying I'd come away with five silvers. All I want is one flipping gold. Five silvers would be awesome still. Some people come to the Games and walk away with nothing, so I can't grumble with two silvers."
But the Velodrome was also a place of bitter disappointment for GB yesterday. Reigning Paralympic tandem champion Anthony Kappes and his pilot Craig MacLean were not allowed to race in the tandem final after two false starts saw them disqualified.
Shooter Matt Skelhon lost his Paralympic air rifle title by a third of a point at the Royal Artillery Barracks yesterday, taking home a silver medal in the mixed 10m prone SH1 final. His was the second medal at the barracks for GB, following James Bevis's bronze in the SH2 final, earlier in the day. Skelhon scored 106.4 with his 10 final shots, but Frenchman Cedric Fevre broke the world and Paralympic record to take gold by three-tenths of a point after both shooters fired perfect rounds of 600 points in qualifying.
"My worst nightmare was messing up the qualifying," said Skelhon. "I was over the moon. I've never seen eight guys shoot 600 before to get into the final."
Beaten, but not defeated
He ran a season's best time and got some of the loudest cheers of the Paralympic Games to date. When Houssein Omar Hassan crossed the line in the Olympic Stadium yesterday at the end of his first-round heat of the T46 men's 1,500m, he finished nearly eight minutes behind the winner, Samir Nouioua of Algeria. But his performance earned the 35-year-old the support of the 80,000-strong crowd, who clapped him round his solitary later laps. The athlete from Djibouti finished in a time of 11:23.50 minutes, compared with Nouioua's time of 3:57.27 minutes.
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