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ipc world championships (4)

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David Weir
David Weir wins World gold in the T54 800m

23 January 2011

On a brilliant night of six medals for the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand (21-30 January), Katrina Hart (coach: Rob Ellchuk) and David Weir (coach: Jenny Archer) led the way with outstanding victories.

Weir – double gold medallist in Beijing over 800m and 1500m – was undoubtedly back to his best as he timed his T54 800m race to perfection; positioned in third at the bell behind World Record holder Marcel Hug (Switzerland) and Jordan Bird (USA), he made his move on the outside and pushed into second down the back straight before taking the lead in the final few metres.

“I knew that if I kept calm on the bend I had the speed and strength to take it,” said the 2010 New York Marathon winner. “I played out my race plan exactly; I’ve spent all day thinking through different race situations and tactics and how they night play out.

“I’ve always said that this is one of the toughest categories in Paralympic sport and you have to be at the top of your game. I was definitely there today and everything went to plan. This is huge, definitely one of the biggest wins of my career.”

He took the win in a new Championship Record of 1:37.28 with Hug in second (1:37.30) and Julien Casoli of France in third (1:37.53) and can look forward with confidence to his remaining outings over 1500m, 5000m and the marathon.

In the women’s T36 200m, Hart raced to another impressive victory to add global gold to her Commonwealth 100m title in October.

“That was even better than Delhi,” said the University of Bath-based athlete who clocked a new lifetime best and European Record of 30.11 (-0.7m/s). “I’m really happy, it’s amazing...it was tough though and I’m knackered, I had to work really hard down the home straight.”

She secured the win in dramatic fashion as two athletes – Germany’s Maria Seifert and Aviva GB & NI’s Jenny McLoughlin (coach: Darrell Maynard) – crashed to the ground over the finish line. “If you’re under pressure it makes you or breaks you and that broke her (Seifert) and it made me,” she said.

“I knew I was in great shape and this is what I’ve always wanted; tomorrow I’m going to be so hyped up for the relay and I hope we can win gold in that too!”

McLoughlin, who must now look ahead to tomorrow’s T35-38 4 x 100m relay, finished eighth (36.93).

In a hugely successful evening session for coach Rob Ellchuk, Paul Blake took a hard-fought silver medal in the T36 1500m on his international debut (4:41.66).

Having sat comfortably with the leaders through the early stages, he broke clear with just under two laps to go and soon had a clear gap on the chasing pair, but with 200m to go, Russia’s Artem Arefyev, the experienced World Record holder and multiple Paralympic Games gold medallist, raced back into contention and as the pair entered the home straight he pushed on to take the victory (4:40.17).

“I thought I had him but my legs just gave up,” admitted the 21-year-old. “I’d obviously have loved to win it and maybe I broke too soon, but silver is amazing and I’m really happy. I know I’ve got a lot more to give.”

Also excelling, Sally Brown (coach: Philip Tweedy), on her senior international debut, exceeded all expectations to take bronze in the T46 200m (26.38 (-0.6m/s)).

“I can’t believe it; last night I felt lucky enough to get into the final,” said the sole Northern Ireland representative on the team and one of the youngest members of the squad at only 15 years-old. “My goal was to get to the final and to PB and I did both, but when I came off the bend I thought “Oh no, I’m going to come last”, but I focused on the fact that I’d gone into the final as fourth fastest and that gave me confidence. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet!”

Making it a trio of bronze medals and taking the Aviva GB & NI total to six for the evening, sprinters Tracey Hinton (coach: Darrell Maynard) and Libby Clegg (coach: Tom Crick) finished third in the T11 and T12 200m in times of 27.43 (-0.8m/s) and 26.75 (0.0m/s) respectively.

“I knew it was going to be tough going into the final but I always go for it because I’ve got nothing to lose and to get bronze is brilliant,” said Hinton.

And while Beijing Paralympic Games 100m silver medallist Clegg was satisfied with her performance, she admitted it could have been quicker: “There was quite a tough wind out there and I think I could have run the bend better,” she said, “but I accelerated off the bend and I was strong into the home straight so I’m happy with what I’ve done, it’s a good start and I’ll hopefully do better in the 100m which is my main event.”

Concluding today’s summary of track action, three times Paralympian Hazel Robson (coach: Janice Kauffman) finished just outside the medals in fourth in the T36 200m (32.52 (-0.4m/s)), while on the in field Gemma Prescott (coach: Mike Wood) - club throw bronze medallist on day one - finished seventh in the F32/33/34 shot putt with a best mark of 5.68m and Sophie Hancock (coach: Shelley Holroyd), fifth in the Beijing Paralympic Games, matched that performance with a fifth place finish in the F40 shot putt (7.54m).

Tomorrow’s action commences with Ben Rushgrove (coach: Rob Ellchuk) and Graeme Ballard (coach: Steve Thomas) in the men’s T36 100m final at 10.10 NZ time (21.10 UK time).

For the latest news about the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships, please visit www.ipcathleticsworldchamps.com, while the IPC’s online TV channel www.ParalympicSport.TV is  broadcasting live coverage of the evening sessions from Christchurch.

Daily session reports will be posted on the UKA website: www.uka.org.uk