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Hannah Cockroft
Hannah Cockroft

08 May 2012

Richard Whitehead (coach: Keith Antoine/Liz Yelling), Hannah Cockroft (Peter Eriksson) and Paul Blake (Rob Ellchuk) made history at the London 2012 Paralympic athletics test event today (Tuesday 8 May) when clocking new World Records in the T42 200m, T34 100m and T36 1500m respectively.  

World Champion Whitehead, a multi-talented athlete with a marathon best of 2:42:54, lowered his own global best to 25.50 (+0.5m/s) when finishing third overall in the mixed classification T42/44 200m event. He also clocked a PB in the 100m (13.33/+0.3m/s).

“I enjoyed it, it’s hard racing twice in one day, but I seem to do pretty well when I have to,” said Whitehead. “The stadium was amazing and the atmosphere was good. It’s been an important day for everyone to get out and gain some confidence.

“I’ve been working hard to refine a few things and I’ve had a good solid winter’s training. Before I went out there today I said I could run 25.5, and I did. I didn’t want to completely smash it, I just wanted to set a good marker.”

Double World Champion Cockroft - in conditions which were arguably kinder than on Saturday when the stadium was officially opened - took over a tenth of a second off her T34 100m World Record when clocking 18.56 (+0.6m/s) in the combined class T34/53/54 race. Having got her year off to a flying start with a new 400m World Record at the Sydney Track Classic in Australia, the performance continued her impressive run of form and was a great start to the Visa London Disability Athletics Challenge, coming in the opening 90 minutes of the programme.

In the Olympic Stadium of all places!” said Cockroft of her achievement. “It’s been good to have the experience to compete here, although I’d like to have gone quicker. It’s really exciting though and I’ve already had messages from people all over the world congratulating me.

“I raced on Sunday and I was really disappointed with my times - I actually started to doubt myself and if I would race well at all today, but my times are better across all my events and things are definitely back on track.”

Blake, the T36 World Champion over 400m, was a double silver medallist over 800m and 1500m at the IPC Athletics World Championships in New Zealand in January 2011. At the UKA Disability Athletics Grand Prix at Crystal Palace (London) last August, he recorded a new World Record over 800m.

Today’s 1500m World Record of 4:34.42 was another great confidence boost for the Dorchester athlete who at last erased the name of his biggest rival, Russia’s Artem Arefyev, from the history books.

“It’s a good feeling, and to be honest, I didn’t expect that today because I’ve been concentrating on the 400m and 800m,” said the 22-year-old who took almost three seconds off his previous best.

“I’m obviously delighted to have broken the record but it was a tough race with it being mixed class, and while it was great to have those quicker guys in the race, I was left to really race the clock!”

The T36 1500m is not part of this summer’s Paralympic Games programme.

There were a number of additional standout performances across the day including a lifetime best and world leading performance from Aled Davies (Anthony Hughes) in the F40-46 discus, one of the most anticipated events of the day.

“It was breathtaking walking out there into the stadium,” said F42 athlete Davies who recorded 47.43m/1001 points for the overall victory.

“It’s been a good week. I threw a World Record (unratified) in the shot putt last weekend in Gateshead then I went out to Croatia to beat the Paralympic champion and former World Record holder, which I did. Now, to come here and PB is really positive and if I can do it now, I’m excited about what I can achieve come Games-time in September.”

In contrast, F44 World Record holder and World Champion Dan Greaves (Jim Edwards) was disappointed not to hit the 60m target he aspires to. He had to settle for a best of 54.93m/995 points on this occasion and was left frustrated as his “nemesis”, defending Paralympic Games gold medallist Jeremy Campbell of the USA, exceeded that mark just a few days ago. 

“For me competition is the best form of attack,” said Greaves; “it’s the competition that drives me on.”

Back on the track, Ireland’s double World Champion Michael McKillop (T37) delivered what was arguably one of the performances of the competition as he obliterated the men’s T37 1500m World Record with a time of 3:59.54.

The 22-year-old reduced the old mark by 15 seconds, beating his previous global best of 4:14.81 set at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in New Zealand.

In the same race,Great Britain’s INAS World Indoor 3000m champion Andrew Kaar (T20) -who has a realistic chance of representing ParalympicsGB this summer with the re-introduction of ID athletes (athletes with an intellectual impairment) at the Paralympic Games for the first time since Sydney in 2000 - was second in 4:01.01, an ‘A’ qualification standard for Paralympic Games and also a lifetime best.

“That’s proved that training is going really well,” said the Birchfield Harrier. “The opportunity to compete in the Paralympic Games has motivated me to train even harder and I’ve recently linked in with a more specific 1500m group which is helping me to improve even more.”

UKA Head Coach Peter Eriksson was delighted with the performances of the British athletes across the day:  “We had three World Records and a whole host of personal best performances with many of the youngsters really stepping up their game - plus David Weir’s final performance in the 1500m was outstanding - so I’m happy overall,” he said.

Results will be available soon on: http://www.londonpreparesseries.com

This summer’s Paralympic Games run from 29 August to 9 September and 1,100 athletes will compete in track and field events contesting 170 medal events.