Pearson lands discus win and world record joy


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The Independent Online

Josie Pearson happens to live in Hay-on-Wye, "the town of books". The 26-year-old has quite a story of her own to relate. Nine years ago she broke her neck in a car crash. Yesterday she set a new world record to claim Paralympic discus gold.

Competing in the F51/F52/F53 category, Pearson threw 6.58m in the third round, giving her a massive winning margin of 244 points. It earned the 10th gold medal of the Games for the GB Paralympic track and field team.

For Pearson, it completed an inspirational journey from tragedy to triumph that started on a bleak night in 2003. She was involved in a head-on car crash that left her with a broken neck and permanent spinal damage. Her boyfriend, Daniel Evans, died in the accident. "This is the culmination of so many years' hard work," Pearson said. "I'm absolutely ecstatic. After my accident I was inspired to get into sport by watching the Athens Paralympics on television in 2004.

"Then, when we heard the 2012 Games were coming to London, that inspired me even more. I've always been very determined and I knew I wanted to be Paralympic champion."

Even before she achieved that goal yesterday, Pearson was a Paralympic trailblazer. While she was rehabilitating in a spinal unit, she took up wheelchair rugby and combined her neuroscience studies with playing for Cardiff Pirates. She ended up making the British team for the Beijing Paralympics, making history as the first woman to compete in wheelchair rugby at the Games.

Last year Pearson switched to wheelchair racing, competing on the track at the World Championships in Christchurch, before settling on discus throwing. "I loved wheelchair rugby, but team sport just wasn't for me," she said. "I wanted to get into the individual side of things and everything has paid off. I've finally found what I'm good at."

Mickey Bushell is good at wheelchair racing – good enough to win the T53 100m final last Monday. At his secondary distance, however, the Shropshire lad is not quite as good. He got off to a good start in the 200m final last night but was edged out of the medal frame in the home straight, finishing fourth in 25.97sec – behind Li Huzhao of China, Brent Lakatos (the Canadian husband of British long jump silver medallist Stef Reid) and Zhao Yufai, also of China.

There was also a fourth-placed finish for Sophia Warner in the T35 100m. The future UK Athletics marketing director clocked 16.90sec – behind Liu Ping of China, Oxana Corso of Italy and Virginia McLachlan of Canada.

"I just didn't have it in me tonight," Warner lamented. "I slipped my disc about four weeks ago. It's been difficult, but the medical team have kept me together."

It was another good night for Ireland's Jason Smyth. Having successfully defended his T13 100m in world record time last Saturday, the 25-year-old Derry man did the same in the 200m.

The visually impaired sprinter, who spends eight months a year training in Florida with American 100m record holder Tyson Gay, and who missed out on Olympic selection by a tantalising 0.04sec, surged to an unchallenged victory in 21.05sec. His closest pursuer, Alexey Labzin of Russia, was a whopping 0.90sec behind.

Smyth proceeded to reveal that he could have been performing his sprint double in a Great Britain vest. "When I started I could have run for Britain just as easily as Ireland," he said. "Both Great Britain and Ireland were given the opportunity. Whoever was approached in Britain gave the impression that they weren't that bothered. That made my decision easier."