Pistorius victorious: gold at last for 'Blade Runner'
The South African sprinter smashes the Paralympic 400m record, while cyclist David Stone gets GB off to a golden start on the penultimate day of the Games. Kate Youde surveys the highlights
Sunday 09 September 2012
The most famous Paralympian on the planet saved his best for last. “The Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius last night stormed to an emphatic victory in the men's 400m T44 race, the final track event of the Games in the Olympic Stadium. He smashed the Paralympic record with his time of 46.68 seconds, taking more than four seconds off the previous best, and finished more than three seconds ahead of Americans Blake Leeper and David Prince in second and third. Brazilian Alan Oliveira was fourth.
The convincing win came days after the South African was beaten to gold in the 200m final by Oliveira and promptly criticised the length of fellow competitors' blades. He had finished out of the medals in the 100m, won by Britain's Jonnie Peacock.
The evening failed to bring any British athletics success: Nathan Stephens, anticipated to be the main home medal hope on the night, failed to make an impact. The world-record holder going into the F57/58 javelin throw final, he only managed a best of 33.10m after being judged to have recorded two foul throws. Following an appeal, Stephens' second attempt, of 37.09m, was reinstated. But that distance was not enough to put him in contention.
The cyclist David Stone got Great Britain off to a golden start on the penultimate day of action at the Paralympic Games with victory in the road race at Brands Hatch yesterday morning. The Yorkshireman's win helped the home nation to finish the Games at the top of the cycling medal table, with 22 medals.
The Beijing double-gold medallist successfully defended the title he won four years ago, finishing the 24km T1-2 race in 45:17 minutes, seven seconds ahead of the Italian Giorgio Farroni. David Vondracek of the Czech Republic was third. The result saw Stone bounce back from losing his time trial title on Wednesday, when he picked up bronze.
The 31-year-old tricycle rider, who has cerebral palsy, said yesterday was the best race of his life. "It makes the win better as it wasn't easy," he said. Stone is competing in his third Games and plans to go for gold again in Rio. "Compared to Beijing, the field is so much harder. It's good. It pushes me – it makes it a much better sport." He said the crowd was "fantastic. I couldn't let them down today."
Also at Brands Hatch, Lora Turnham and her pilot Fiona Duncan finished eighth in the women's B individual road race.
One person who would have been keenly following the progress of David Smith in boccia was his girlfriend, Kathryn, who had said she would not marry him unless he came back with a medal.
He won silver yesterday to add to a bronze medal he had already won in the team event. Asked how he was doing after winning two medals, he said: "You'll have to ask [Kathryn] that one. "She said I had to win two medals and one of them had to be gold," said the 23-year-old, from Eastleigh in Hampshire. "She's keeping it [her decision to marry him] close. She's been kept updated [on matches] and she's chuffed to bits."
Smith, who is studying aerospace engineering at Swansea University, was delighted with his medal in the sport, which is similar to boules or pétanque. He lost 7-0 to Pattaya Tadtong of Thailand, who "was on fire", in the final of the mixed individual BC1 competition at the ExCeL.
"Silver medallist sounds pretty good. I'm chuffed to bits," he said. "I gave it my best shot. Sometimes it's easy to focus on the award and not the performance. I think I gave a good performance."
Stephen McGuire missed out on a medal yesterday, losing 5-3 to the world No 1 Eliseu dos Santos of Brazil in the BC4 bronze medal match.
David Clarke brought his international career to an end by scoring in ParalympicGB's 2-0 win over Turkey in the five-a-side football competition. It was the veteran captain's 128th goal in his 144th international appearance. The result secured the team seventh-place.
After the final whistle, the player made an emotional address to the crowd and his team-mates at the Riverbank Arena. "If I can inspire blind kids to start playing football, then as far as I'm concerned it's job done," he said.
The competitive action may have been over in women's sitting volleyball but ParalympicsGB still had a match on their hands yesterday – against firefighters, paramedics and police officers who had been on duty during the Games.
The friendly match at the ExCeL was the brainwave of Martine Wright, a member of the British team, who lost both her legs in the 7/7 bomb attacks on London in 2005. She struck up a conversation with firefighters working at the Olympic Park and challenged them to a game.
Ellie Simmonds, with silver in the S6 100m freestyle, was not the only British swimmer to make a splash. Harriet Lee, 21, added to the medal tally at the Aquatics Centre yesterday evening with a bronze in the SB9 100m breaststroke. She touched in with a time of 1:19.53 behind Sophie Pascoe of New Zealand in second and Khrystyna Yurchenko of Ukraine in first place. Lee said competing at London 2012 was "quite emotional". "I wasn't supposed to be walking, never mind swimming," she said. Lee has Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, an overgrowth disorder. "I've had a really rocky year", she added, "but... you've just got to fight."
In the closest race of the evening at the Olympic Stadium, South African Fanie van der Merwe and China's Yongbin Liang both broke the world record in the men's T37 100m race as they crossed the finish line together in a time of 11.51 seconds. But while the clock couldn't separate them, the officials did. They awarded the South African runner the gold medal, Liang the silver. Van der Merwe shaved 100th of a second off the record he held, of 11.52 seconds.
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