The astonishing Paralympics: 10 moments to savour

The stories that have captured people's imaginations in the first three days of competition

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The Independent Online

From prison to the podium

A remarkable tale all round. The 55-year-old Spaniard Sebastian Rodriguez saw off much younger swimmers – including 15-year-old Brit Andrew Mullen – to take silver in the S5 50m freestyle, his 13th Paralympic medal. And then there's his past: he is a convicted terrorist. Rodriguez was sentenced to 84 years in prison in 1985, when a member of the left-wing terrorist group Grapo, for his part in the murder of a Spanish businessman. He went on hunger strike while in prison, which led him to lose the use of his legs. He was granted parole in 1994 and received a pardon from the Spanish government five years ago.


Jonathan Fox laid to rest the curse that seemed to be lingering over the Aquatics Centre for home swimmers by winning the first British gold in that pool this summer. The 21-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, succeeded where Team GB had fallen short, claiming victory in the S7 100m backstroke. In fact, it took the ParalympicsGB swimmers just one day to better the medal performance of their Olympic counterparts: Nyree Kindred and Hannah Russell added two silvers to the medal tally on Thursday. Team GB managed one silver and two bronze medals at the Olympics.


After being overwhelmed by anger and disappointment following his disqualification from the men's C4-5 1km time trial on Friday, British cyclist Jody Cundy returned to the Velodrome to apologise to the crowd for his behaviour. He had slipped from the starting blocks. When he was denied the chance to restart, he hurled water bottles, screamed insults and had to be restrained by a team member. He later went back to the arena to say sorry to the crowd for swearing. "I would like to apologise for my language. Even over the noise I think you might have been able to hear it," he said.

The Wright stuff

The day after London won its bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Martine Wright's life changed completely. She was caught in the 7/7 London bombings in 2005 while on her way to work. One of the last people to be pulled from the wreckage of the tube train at Aldgate, she spent 10 days in a coma and lost both her legs. Seven years later, the 39-year-old Briton is representing her country in sitting volleyball. She made her Paralympic Games debut on Friday against Ukraine.

Pool haul

Dubbed the female Michael Phelps, the South African swimmer Natalie du Toit – who, like Phelps, is retiring after this summer's competition – won her 11th Paralympic gold on Thursday in the S9 100m butterfly. While plans for seven golds in London faltered when she finished fourth in the S9 100m backstroke on Friday, she still hopes to add to her medal haul. The swimmer, who lost her leg in a motorbike accident in 2001, was the first amputee to qualify for the Olympics, finishing 16th in the 10k open water swim in Beijing four years ago. Aged only 14, she swam able-bodied at the Commonwealth Games in 1998.

Extra, extra

It was only a preliminary game in the ParalympicGB men's wheelchair basketball campaign, so there were no medals up for grabs. But that didn't stop the team's tie against Germany on Thursday making compelling TV, enticing a peak audience of 3.3 million to Channel 4's live coverage – 15 per cent of all viewers at 9pm. The nail-bitingly close encounter went over time, with the Germans emerging victorious 77-72 at the end of the deciding fifth period. Despite their defeat, the battling Brits doubtless gained an army of new fans for their sport.

Armless Archer

They call him the Armless Archer and, in the United States, Matt Stutzman already has legendary status. Using his teeth to pull back the string and his feet to hold the bow, Stutzman, 29, held the lead – and the crowd's attention – in the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich on Thursday. Despite having neither arm to work with, Stutzman beat 28 athletes to take the lead in the early stages of his classification, putting him on track for a gold medal. His score of 685 is just six points shy of a Paralympic record. The final is tomorrow.

Class war

It was the first proper controversy of the Games – so, of course, it involved an American. Swimmer Mallory Weggemann was all ready to sweep up nine gold medals until judges said her disability had been wrongly classified. Organisers had placed her in the S7 class, but then decided she should be moved to S8 for those with less severe disabilities. Weggemann initially hit out at organisers, saying she had "lost faith" in the system, but has since issued a statement saying: "I see this as a new opportunity to demonstrate that when life and people knock you down, each and every one of us still has the ability to overcome and rise to the occasion."

On track!

The Velodrome has once again provided the backdrop for the finest drama of the Games. On Thursday, with the whiff of Opening Ceremony firework smoke still in the air, Sarah Storey whizzed around its banked wooden sides in the C5 pursuit to bag the first gold of the Games. Storey, born without a functioning left hand, had already broken a world record of 3min 32.170sec in qualifying — a time that would have won silver at the able-bodied World Championships earlier this year. It was her eighth Paralympic gold, putting her on track to match Tanni Grey-Thompson's tally of 11.

Celebrate good times

A torn cruciate ligament in judoka Ben Quilter's knee just seven weeks before the Games looked as if it had ruined his medal chances. And at the start of Thursday, when the under-60kg visually impaired competitor was knocked out at the first hurdle, everyone – including him – assumed it had. "This morning I wanted to go home," he said. But he fought his way through the repechage stages to win bronze against Japan's Takaaki Hirai. His celebrations were as fearsome as his fighting, with friends lifting him high above their heads.