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UK Athletics

Paralympic Update

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Richard Whitehead


01 September 2012

The British highlight of the second morning again in front of an enthusiastic capacity crowd was a superb gold medal and world record for Richard Whitehead (Liz Yelling/Keith Antoine) in the T42 200m. He was the big favourite with a 24.93 PB while none of the others had ever broken 26 seconds.

At the second start attempt Whitehead had a poor start and he was last for most of the first bend and still out of a medal position at 100m but he hit full speed during the straight and easily run the opposition down to win in a world record 24.38 giving him around 10 metres to spare over American Shaquille Vance who set an American record of 25.55 as most of the field were inspired to lifetime bests in the electric atmosphere.

The Briton said, “This is the second time I've set a world record. The first time was in front of 2000 people. This time it was in front of a stadium of 80,000 people. That wasn’t for me, that wasn’t for Richard Whitehead, it was for everyone who has supported me. I was fighting back tears towards the end and I had to take a couple of minutes to pull myself together; that was a performance for everyone. There are so many people wanting you to win so it’s a big weight to carry on your shoulders, but I’ve got broad shoulders so I can bear the weight. The race didn’t really go as expected; we were obviously pulled back then I got off to a terrible start – I slipped – but I know my start isn’t quick and I run with what inspires me and I did that for my friend Simon Mellows who died recently. “

Britain also picked up three further medals in the field.

In the F54/55/56 Shot Robin Womack (Simon McCoy) improved his PB by a centimetre to throw 11.02 for 952 points in the second round. In the third round he went all the way out to another PB of 11.34m for 972 points, which put him in the silver medal position after three throws.

He was back to third when he took his last three throws with a medal guaranteed and he was unable to improve but it was an impressive Paralympic debut for the 41 year-old.

He said, "My first throw was poor and I could hear Shaun Pickering shout “stretch, stretch” and I just had to remember everything I’d done back in the preparation camp in Portugal. I wanted to get the crowd on my side and maybe I was giving it a bit too much early on and I felt I didn’t have much left in the later rounds because of all the excitement, but Shaun told me to take some time and calm down. Last night my roommate Aled Davies had his shot putt bronze and I had it round my neck. I thought “I want this medal.”

In the F31/32/51 Club Throw, Gemma Prescott (Michael Woods) started with a 17.58m, which she improved to 18.97m and then her third 20.50m was a PB and her first 20 metre throw and also a British and European record. She also bettered her previous best with a 20.17m final throw. Her 20.50m gave her 1015 points, compared to the winner’s Marouaa Ibrahimi 1064 for a world record 23.43m.

Prescott said, “That was an amazing experience; I knew I had to go out there and PB to win an medal and I’m delighted. I’m actually really struggling for words. Having three British girls in that event just made the crowd even louder. I’ve never been in an event like that before with such support.”

Both Prescott and the Tunisian are in the F32 category and F51 category thrower Josie Pearson (Anthony Hughes) also had the competition of her life.

She opened with a 12.65m PB for 874 points, which she improved to 12.79m in the second for 883 points. Her third throw went out of the sector. By the time of her final throw, she was in sixth but another lifetime best of 13.42m moved her up to fifth with 919 points.

Maxine Moore (Alison O’Riordan) threw further with 13.53m but as a F32 competitor, that only converted to 708 points. Her PB is 16.56m.

In the F11/12 Discus, Claire Williams (Jim Edwards) gained Britain’s fourth medal of a highly successful morning. She threw 39.12m to go into medal contention in the second round which she improved to 39.63m in the fourth.

By the time she had her last throw she was guaranteed a bronze medal and she failed to improve and her 39.63m gave her 908 points. Gold went to the Chinese Liangmin Zhang, who won gold with 40.13m.

“I couldn’t be happier. My little girl gave me this flag (GB flag) and she was beaming, that said it all,” she said after.

“I threw as well as I could today and it’s the best I’ve thrown for a while, I’m ecstatic. I have had so many ups and downs since I started, but this has made it all worthwhile – it’s made up for the last 12 years and it makes me want to go to Rio; this medal, this is what it’s for.

“I was worried that I’d be frightened by the crowd, but it was just amazing.”

In the T12 100m Libby Clegg (Keith Antoine) entered the event with a 12.41 PB and shortly after Russian Oxana Boturchuk had set a world record 12.24, the Briton improved that to 12.17/1.5  with the race of her life. However the record lasted just seven minutes when Zhu Daquing improved it to 12.13 and then Zhou Gouhua improved that to 11.91/0.6 another seven minutes later.

Clegg said after her record breaking run. “It was absolutely phenomenal, it was amazing having that home support, I’m just blown away and I’m so happy. It felt comfortable.” She runs in the semi finals this evening.

T11 200m Tracey Hinton (self-coached/Paula Dunn) set her fastest time of the year in 27.26 to finish third and qualify for tomorrow’s final.

In the T36 200m heats Hazel Robson (Janice Kaufman) competing in her fourth Paralympics qualified for the final with a 32.03/0.8.

She said, “It was a really hard race. I came out of the blocks quick enough. My coach said to run tight around the bends and I wasn't far behind second place. I achieved a season's best which feels all right."

In the T38 100m Olivia Breen (Leroy Elliott) had to rerun her race after most of the athletes including her didn’t react to the recall gun. At the second attempt she ran 14.21 for third place which easily qualified her for the final.