Records fall, excitement soars – and Games are on - Paralympics - Olympics - The Independent

Records fall, excitement soars – and Games are on

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

From Velodrome to Aquatics Centre, the Olympic Park comes alive again as Paralympians raise the bar and crowds raise the roofs

One might imagine having no arms to be an insurmountable setback, in a backstroke race against opponents that do have them. Not so, it turns out.

London had its first taste of Paralympic competition yesterday, and it proved a compelling appetiser of what is to follow in the next 10 days.

Even before many Paralympians who attended Wednesday night's Opening Ceremony had made it out of bed, we had records.

The near shrieking roar was back at the Aquatics Centre, rising and swooping between the steep banks of seats as it did during the Olympics, almost like a skateboarder in a half pipe.

That roar was never louder than when Chinese swimmers Zheng Tao and Lu Dong had won the men's and women's 100-metre S6 backstroke golds in world record times.

It is a category for people who, be it through missing limbs, achondroplasia (dwarfism) or various other conditions, find it difficult to maintain a consistent direction of travel through the water. But Tao and Dong seemed to have no difficulty whatsoever, despite their missing arms, butterfly leg-kicking down the pool before banging their heads straight on to the finishing pad to both break the world records.

The Aquatics Centre was not a happy hunting ground for Team GB at the Olympics, but if yesterday was anything to go by, this Games will be a different story. Britain's Jonathan Fox claimed our first gold there last night, having earlier broken the world record in his men's S7 100m backstroke heat, while Hannah Russell, a 16-year-old debutant from Chertsey in Surrey set a new world best in the S12 400m freestyle swimming before claiming silver in the final.

Russell, whose visual impairment means that all she can make out are the flags above the pool and the markings at the bottom, described the moment as "a dream come true".

Fox's victory was not the first British gold of the day. He was pipped to that honour by cyclist Sarah Storey who, 20 years after winning her first Paralympic medal as a swimmer in Barcelona, smashed the 3000m pursuit world record in the heats. In the final, she overtook her opponent with more than a third of the race remaining, which according to the rules, ends the contest.

Storey was herself beaten to the title of first British medallist of these Paralympic Games by her cycling team-mate Mark Colbourne, who claimed silver in the 1km time trial having been roared all the way round a velodrome every bit as packed as when Hoy, Pendleton and the rest were riding round it not so long ago.

Colborne's first British medal came later in the day than many had expected. Di Coates, competing in her eighth games in the 10m rifle shooting competition, has won three gold medals, a silver and a bronze before now, but yesterday finished in ninth place in qualifying, just missing out on a place in the final. "It's a disappointment," the 58-year-old said. "I was trying to keep it together, but it just didn't work for me today."

Coates has the distinction of being the only athlete to have previously competed at a Paralympic Games on British soil, after the 1984 Paralympics were moved to Stoke Mandeville Hospital when the University of Illinois pulled out at the last minute. She added: "It was nice that my friends and family could all come, but it would have been nice to have done better for them."

Elsewhere British crowds got their first look at yet more of the Paralympic Games's lesser known but intriguing sports. In the Copper Box, the very first action of the Games saw Great Britain take on the world champions Lithuania at goalball. It was never going to be easy, and the home team lost 11-1, but the crowd quickly picked up on the intricacies of a sport in which blind and visually impaired competitors attempt to bowl, ten pin style, a ball containing a bell past their opponents at the other end of the court. "We'll come back stronger," said 21-year-old British player Niall Graham.

Meanwhile there was shock at the Excel Centre, where visually impaired judo world champion Ben Quilter lost his first round match, but came back to win bronze in the repechage.

The wheelchair basketball competitions began at the North Greenwich Arena. Great Britain's women were heavily beaten by the Netherlands, but the bigger shock for the viewing audience, at least, was the sheer number of times the players were knocked over and clean out of their seats. The non-disabled game is nominally a non-contact sport. That is not the case here. "It was a big occasion for the girls in such a big arena," said Great Britain's Head Coach Garry Peel. "We knew that it was going to be a really tough game, the Dutch are never an easy opposition, but now we have to pick ourselves up for tomorrow's game." They are far from eliminated yet, but the wheelchair basketball is a popular competition, and most ticket holders will be wanting to watch Great Britain play. Last night, the men's team were beaten in a group match by Germany 77-72.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week