Yesterday at the Games: Ellie Simmonds leaves world in her wake with GB's 18th gold
Stunning final length seals record display for Games' poster girl
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Tuesday 04 September 2012
Amid the deluge of 113 records that has rained down on the 2012 Paralympics and plaudits for "superb" performances by home athletes, there could only be one result for Ellie Simmonds. But the teenager surprised even herself last night as she added a 114th world best to the London Games and claimed her second gold medal.
The 17-year-old swimmer provided one of the most emphatic performances by any British athlete this summer by breaking her own world record twice in a day in the SM6 200m individual medley, roared on by a gloriously partisan home crowd.
Simmonds clawed back a five second deficit in the last length of the final to crush her nearest opponent by nearly 10 seconds. Her winning time of three minutes 5.39 seconds was more than 1.5 seconds faster than the new world record she had set barely six hours earlier.
The undisputed Queen of the Pool for Paralympics GB, who insisted she had not set out to break her world best yesterday morning, said: "I'm so pleased, another world record. I'm really chuffed and just so pleased to be on the top podium with home support."
Her success, witnessed by Prime Minister David Cameron, came on a day of remarkable endeavour in the Aquatics Centre with 11 new world or Paralympian records being set. GB's Natalie Jones took the bronze medal behind Simmonds, while Britain's Sascha Kindred took silver in the men's SM6 200m medley. GB's Susannah Rodgers took bronze in the women's 100m freestyle.
Away from the pool, wheelchair racer Michael Bushell won gold in the T53 100m final, bettering the silver he took at Beijing and setting a new Paralympic record time of 14.75 seconds, just short of his 14.47 world record. The 21-year-old from Shropshire said afterwards that he had been inspired by David Weir's victory in the 5,000m.
Horse rider Natasha Baker also added to the Paralympics GB haul. The Londoner proved the value of improvisation when she secured her second gold of the Paralympics with a record score of 82.8 per cent in the Grade II freestyle dressage event on Cabral.
The 22-year-old rider from Uxbridge, who was inspired to take up riding when she watched London 2012 team-mate Lee Pearson win three golds in Sydney 12 years ago, forgot some of the steps in her routine at Greenwich Park but recovered brilliantly with an unplanned manoeuvre to get back on track and beat the Paralympian record.
Baker said: "Everything was good until I got to the point where I am supposed to canter, and I forgot what to do next, so I did a loop into a trot. Thank goodness the judges didn't appear to notice."
There was further frustration for Pearson yesterday when he was beaten into third place in the Ib dressage event, delaying again the moment when he equals the tally of 11 Paralympian golds set by Dame Tanni-Grey Thompson and swimmer David Roberts.
Elsewhere, there was debut Paralympian success for Welshman Paul Davies after 21 years of playing table tennis.
The 45-year-old, who was paralysed in a motorbike accident in 1986, took the bronze medal in C1 table tennis event by beating South Korean Lee-Chang Ho in his Union flag-emblazoned wheelchair. Davies said: "I have been playing for 21 years, since the day my son was born until today, so it is a happy day."
A matter of hours after his thrilling triumph in the T54 5,000m event, Weir returned to the Olympic Stadium for the heat of the 1,500m, in which he won one of his two gold medals in Beijing four years ago. The 33-year-old Londoner did just enough to make it into the final, coming home third after two-and-a-half hours sleep following his victory on Sunday. He said: "I feel quite fresh, actually, which is surprising."
Baker's triumph came as British team chiefs said they had pulled through a "challenging" first few days of the London Games, in particular against a resurgent Australian squad.
With Paralympics GB cementing its second place in the medals table and more than half way to beating its target of 103 medals with a total of 58 podium finishes, chef de mission Craig Hunter said: "Obviously, the mood in the camp is very positive because we've got off to a superb start. It's been a challenging first few days, with Australia obviously, we've been tagging along with them but we've increased the margin ahead of them so that's very encouraging for us."
Team bosses acknowledged that the dominance of China, which now has 46 golds meant the host nation is locked in a battle to remain in second place overall.
Britain's sporting performance comes as the Games are proving hugely popular with spectators at venues, and of the armchair variety.
Organising committee Locog said it expected the number of spectators at the 2012 Paralympics to pass one million today with the average 10,000 extra tickets being put on sale each day being snapped up within minutes.
Yesterday at the Games
Gold / Silver / Bronze / Total
China 46 28 33 107
GB 19 25 18 62
Russia 15 19 13 47
Australia 15 12 19 46
Ukraine 15 12 15 42
Britain's roll of honour
Equestrianism Grade II individual freestyle test: Natasha Baker
Swimming Women's 200m individual medley SM6: Ellie Simmonds
Swimming Men's 200m SM6 individual medley: Sascha Kindred
Table tennis Men's singles, class one: Paul Davies (right)
Equestrianism Freestyle Grade 1B dressage: Lee Pearson
Swimming Women's 200m medley SM6: Natalie Jones
Women's 100m freestyle S7: Susannah Rodgers
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