Velodrome victory sets the stage as home team win two golds on day one of Games
Sarah Storey wins eighth Paralympic title while Jonathan Fox makes a splash in the pool
Friday 31 August 2012
When Sarah Storey took to the track for the final of the C5 individual pursuit final yesterday, Team GB's first gold of the Games was barely in doubt. The 34-year-old cyclist had, after all, obliterated the world record during qualification, finishing 16 seconds faster than second-place Polish cyclist Anna Harkowaska.
Sure enough, Storey took the first of four possible 2012 golds in the most spectacular fashion amid deafening noise in front of a packed crowd on the first day of cycling action at the Velodrome – catching her opponent after only eight laps. "Feels amazing," she said. "I can't quite believe that I've been so lucky to win in my home town with my home crowd. It just has not sunk in yet."
The world record was the 72nd of Storey's remarkable career, achieved in front of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. She might have secured a 73rd in the final, if she had not sealed victory less than two-thirds of the way into the race – a feat that was, she said, helped by her morning's heroics.
"I didn't expect to knock off so much time in my world record this morning, but that gave me great confidence and I was able to stay calm and do what I knew I could do."
It all looked simple, but Storey insisted otherwise. Speaking after an emotional medal ceremony, she said: "Well it looked easy, but believe me, there is so much work that goes into a medal like that. Obviously I was able to win the final a lot quicker than I expected, but the crowd was behind me and with me, so it felt like they carried me through. I'm just so over the moon."
Yesterday's gold was Storey's eighth Paralympic title and her third in cycling – the first five having come in the pool before she switched sports in 2005. She also has eight silver medals and three bronze from a swimming career that began at the age of 14, making her undoubtedly one of the greatest British athletes in history. In 2010 she became the first Paralympic cyclist to compete for Britain against non-disabled athletes at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi – only one of two athletes to ever do so. Storey, who was born with a deformed left hand and is classified as C5 (the least-disabled class in cycling), only narrowly missed out on a place in Olympics 2012 women's team pursuit and came into yesterday's race as both world champion and defending Paralympic champion in the pursuit.
It was thanks to her inspirational example that her teammate Crystal Lane took up competitive cycling and secured a Paralympics debut yesterday that included a personal best and fourth place in the heats. The 26-year-old from Chelmsford, in Essex, who was born with an under-developed left arm and missing fingers on her left hand, was ultimately defeated by New Zealand's Fiona Southorn in the bronze-medal race.
Later there was another gold for Great Britain as Jonathan Fox broke the curse of the Aquatic Centre by winning the S7 100m backstroke.
There were other medals in the Velodrome too. Welshman Mark Colbourne took silver – Team GB's first medal of the Games – in the 1km time trial. His Paralympics' debut left teammate Darren Kenny, who had held the world record going into the race, in a slightly disappointing fourth place.
In a factored race for C1, C2 and C3 athletes, which means that each cyclist's time was altered according to the extent of their disability, Colbourne, as C1, was among the most incapacitated. His remarkable silver comes only three years after he broke his back in a paragliding accident. "It's very exciting," he said. "We have worked for 18 months for this."
Whereas Storey has been a Paralympics regular for 20 years, yesterday was, hopefully for Colbourne, only the beginning – he has to get back on his bike for another race today. "I've got this opportunity to achieve something I could have only dreamed of before," he told The Independent last month.
GB's medallists: Third in the table – and the action's only just begun
Sarah Storey: gold
The 34-year-old former para-swimmer who turned to track cycling after a series of ear infections kept her out of the pool claimed Team GB's first gold in the women's C5 individual pursuit.
Jonathan Fox: gold
The 21-year-old cerebal palsy sufferer began his day in the Aquatics Centre well with an early world record and topped that off with victory in the final of the S7 100m backstroke.
Nyree Kindred: silver
The Welsh swimmer was the fastest qualifier for the final of the women's S6 100m backstroke but was pushed into second in the final by a world record from China's Lu Dong.
Hannah Russell: silver
The 16-year-old who swims with impaired vision beamed after winning her medal women's S12 400m freestyle.
Mark Colbourne: silver
The 41-year-old took GB's first medal of the Games in the men's individual 1km cycling time trial.
Ben Quilter: bronze
The visually impaired double world champion judoka claimed his -60kg medal despite a knee injury.
Zoe Newson: bronze
The 20-year-old powerlifter wiped a tear from her eye at the ExCel after holding aloft 88kg, twice her own bodyweight.
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