Yesterday at the Games: The power and the glory
More medals for the Paralympics team - and a massive controversy flares up as 'blade runners' clash
Britain won a slew of gold medals in every corner of the Olympic Park and beyond yesterday culminating with a nail-biting evening inside the stadium in which Britain's David Weir rode to a stunning victory in the 5,000m and South Africa's Oscar Pistorius launched into an angry tirade against one of his rivals after he lost the 200m.
The last half hour inside the stadium turned out to be one of the most dramatic the Stratford park seen so far.
In an atmosphere every bit as charged as any in London’s Olympic Stadium, the greatest wheelchair racer there is came around the final bend, like Mo Farah did not that long ago, a great big barrel of brute strength, powering his way to the front of a race he had barely led for any of the previous 5,000m, over the line, amid the noise, and into the records books.
The stadium was probably only three quarters full for the last race of the night, which started forty minutes behind schedule at gone ten o clock, but the now famous Mexican wave of noise swept round it nonetheless, and again on two victory laps embarked on by the 33 year old, as he struggled to contain his emotions, and struggled too, to hold the Union Flag around his shoulders as he motored round.
"It's nice the old dogs still winning,” he said afterwards. “It's taken hard work, determination and motivation. This was the one I wanted" He is still to compete in the 800m and 1500m, which he won in Beijing, and the marathon too.
Only twenty minutes earlier, spectators had been left reeling by the failure of Oscar Pistorius to retain his T44 200m crown.
Brazilian Alan Oliveira came from a long way behind to pass and beat Pistorius on the line and claim the gold medal.
“I run just over 10m a second, I don’t know how you can come back, by watching the replay, from eight metres behind on the 100m to win. It's absolutely ridiculous," Pistorius said.
“We're not racing a fair race here, but I gave my best on a great night
“The IPC have their regulations but the regulations mean that the athletes can make themselves unbelievably high. We've tried to address the issue with them in the weeks upcoming to this and it's just been falling on deaf ears.”
Oliveira has been competing on the same length spikes for several years, and the accusations have resounding echoes of those Pistorius himself is used to facing, not least when he won his battle in the Court of Arbitration for Sport to be allowed to compete in non-disabled races.
In an interview after the race Oliveira hit back at his South African rival.
“The length of my blades are all right because I went through all the procedures with the referees,” he said through a translator before adding pointedly: “And I believe Pistorius also knows that.”
In an emotionally charged press conference he added: “I think he wanted to get to me as he tried twice before but I came to show him I'm not any more the little boy.”
Elsewhere the medals kept coming for Paralympics GB.
There was a golden farewell to the velodrome, as Great Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic pringle-shaped medal factory staged its final day of action.
Anthony Kappes and pilot Craig MacLean won ParalympicsGB’s fifth cycling gold in an all Great Britain tandem sprint final against Neil Fachie and Barney Storey.
The best of three race was its usual cat-and-mouse, highly tactical affair with the enormous Barney Storey climbing up the steep banks, the comparatively diminutive Neil Fachie sat behind him, at times appearing like a boy on the back of his dad’s bike, the race often grinding to very near standstill.
But in the first race Kappes and MacLean, moved away with a lap to go and powered over the line first. In the second, such was Kappes and MacLean’s dominance that Neil Fachie stopped pedalling and sat upright on his saddle, effectively giving up with more than a lap to go.
“It was brilliant, the atmosphere, and racing against Barney and Neil, it’s pretty good,” said Kappes.
The pair had failed to finish the kilo race on Saturday, won by Storey and Fachie, owing to mechanical failure.
ParalympicsGB also won silver in the team sprint with Darren Kenny, Jon-Allan Butterworth and Rik Wadden, in an epic final against the Chinese, which they lost by six hundredths of a second, while the Chinese broke the world record for the second time in a day.
Aileen McGlynn and Helen Scott won bronze in the tandem pursuit, beating team-mates Lora Turnham and Fiona Duncan.
It meant Great Britain topped the track cycling medal table, with five golds, the same as China, but with seven silvers compared to their single one. Both nations won three bronze medals.
The velodrome is now closed, and will reopen in about a year’s time, by which point mountain bike trails will have been built around it and it will form part of the Lee Valley Velopark.
In the Olympic Stadium, packed again for another morning session, Welshman Aled Davies won Britain’s added a gold medal in the F42 discus competition, to add to the shotput bronze he won on Friday.
Only Iran’s Mehrdad Karam Zadeh provided any real competition, but the Welshman threw further and further every throw and won with a throw to spare.
“Four years of hard work have gone into this,” he said “It’s nice to give something back to everyone. I’m just so happy I performed. I’ve worked so hard so to deliver, and to give something back on the biggest stage, I can’t believe it.”
At the same time Britain’s long jump hope Stef Reid was putting in a gutsy performance in the F42/44 long jump. She broke a Paralympic record in her F44 category but came second overall when the results were adjusted to reflect the greater impairment of Australia’s Kelly Cartwright.
In the T54 5,000m Shelly Woods led the pack for much of the 12 minute race but couldn’t keep the pace up in the final loop as she plunged from second to eighth.
In the evening session, T36 sprinter Graeme Ballard, who has cerebral palsy, won silver in the 100 metres, but despite being the world record holder was unable to beat Russian Evgenii Shvetcov.
At Eton Dorney there was joy and despair in equal measure. The mixed cox fours went into their final without a vital piece of equipment. Their electronic speed coach – which measures the stroke rate – had fallen into the water during the warm ups. But it didn’t matter, with the mixed sex team of Pamela Relph, Naomi Riches, Dave Smith, James Roe and cox Lily van den Broecke powering through to the finish line regardless to take gold..
“It’s such a relief to know all the hard work, the hours, the blood sweat and tears you put in, are worth it,” said an exhausted Riches after the race.
But it came more as a relief for the crowds, who earlier witnessed one of the biggest shocks of the games so far. Tom Aggar, one of Britain’s brightest hopes for a gold medal and an undefeated single sculler for the last five years, failed to win a medal. Aggar knew he had a fight on his hands to retain the gold he won in Beijing four years ago after Huang Cheng of China set a world best of four minutes 45.02 seconds for the 1km course in the heats.
“I’m devastated,” the 28 year old Londoner admitted after the race. “Going in I was the favourite on paper and had great preparation. But when I asked for more today it just wasn’t there.“The standard has moved on massively and I just wasn’t myself today. I will be back. I’m a fighter through and through.”
In the pool, a new heroine was made as Jessica-Jane Applegate, making her debut at the Paralympics, won a sensational victory in the 200m freestlye S14 class.
The 16-year-old Norfolk swimmer, who has Asperger’s syndrome, went into the race as the fastest qualifier but for the first 150m it looked like she might miss out on the medals altogether as she battled against a stiff challenge from her Australian and Dutch challengers. But as the crowd roared her on she appeared to find a new burst of energy and pressed ahead in the closing stages of the race to take the top spot.
One family had cause for a double celebration last night. Libby Clegg, a visually impaired sprinter, snapped up silver in the T12 100m final. Only half an hour earlier her brother James had won a bronze medal in the Aquatics centre for the 100m butterfly. Their parents had to run to the stadium after his victory to see their daughter compete.
Speaking after his race James described how his sister had advised him to find inspiration from the the fans. “She said, 'Listen to the crowd and they will carry you',” he said. “I was panning to just put headphones on to come out but she said no. It is brilliant to be competing at the same games as my sister.”
At Greenwich, GB rider and defending champion Sophie Christiansen won gold in the individual dressage 1a grade.
Her victory meant Great Britain have also won the coveted dressage team gold - giving Lee Pearson his tenth gold, just one fewer than track athlete Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and swimmer David Roberts who share the UK record.
But the very popular table tennis player Will Bayley had to settle for silver, after losing to Germany’s Jochen Wollmert in the class 7 final. Bayley went down 3-1 and collapsed on the floor in tears at the end.
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