Paralympic Games: Holmes' third gold caps British success

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The Independent Online
Britain gained their 39th and final gold medal of the 10-day competition at the 10th Paralympic Games in Atlanta when the swimmer Christopher Holmes won the men's 50 metres freestyle

It was an impressive haul but not one to breed complacency in the team, whose chef de mission, Tony Sainsbury, said: "We can do even better next time."

For Holmes, it was a third gold in his third Paralympics. His medal helped Britain to pip Spain for fourth place overall. The United States topped the table with 46 gold medals, 46 silver and 65 bronze, Australia were second with 42 golds and Germany third on 40.

Sainsbury was delighted with the team's performance. "I said after Barcelona [in 1992] we would need to have a wider spread of medals if we were to maintain and develop our position as one of the top nations in the world. I think we have done that and I don't think we've reached our full potential even yet, which probably has something to do with the age of some of the members of the team.

"I've been around quite a long time and this is the best team I've ever worked with. I can only see a great future for the British Paralympic movement if the promises being made by all sorts of agencies are fulfilled over the next four years."

Athletics and swimming emerged as Britain's strongest sports. There were 42 medals in athletics, including 12 golds, seven of which came with world records.

Steve Payton, who has cerebral palsy, showed all his sprinting prowess with golds at 100m, 200m and 400m in the men's T37 class, while the partially- sighted middle-distance runner Noel Thatcher showed the benefit of spending the past 12 months receiving guidance from Japan's top coaches with superb wins at 10,000m and 5,000m. In winning the former, he lowered the world record by 50 seconds despite a stress fracture in his left shin.

The injury did rule Thatcher out of the marathon, in which the partially- sighted runners Steve Brunt and Mark Farnell finished with silvers apiece in the B2 and B3 categories.

At the aquatic centre there was a haul of 48 medals, including 16 golds - seven of them with world records. Apart from three golds for the partially- sighted Holmes, another three went to Stockport's Sarah Bailey, in the women's 100m backstroke S10, 100m breaststroke SB10 and 200m individual medley SM10.

In a combative wheelchair basketball competition, Britain's men lifted their world ranking to second but had their gold medal chances scuppered by a rampant Australian team, who beat them 78-63 in the final.

Medals table,

Sporting Digest, page 19