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Weir Takes 400m Silver

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10 September 2008



David Weir sliced nearly a tenth of a second from his own world record at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing this evening but still couldn’t win an elusive first gold for Britain’s Paralympic athletics team.

The 29-year-old Surrey racer finished second in 46.02, 0.09s inside his two-year-old world mark, but was left some 20 metres adrift by China’s Lixin Zhang who delighted the crowd with an awesome display of pushing.

Zhang crossed the line in 45.07, more than a second inside the record, leaving Weir to wonder what could have been if he’d been 100 per cent fit. Weir has been suffering with a cold and is due to have a blood test tomorrow.

“I don’t feel right,” said Weir. “My heart is working overtime and I know my body. I’ve had glandular fever in the past and I know I’m susceptible to pick up anything.”

Racing in the lane three he chased hard after Zhang who was pushing in the lane outside him, but the Chinese athlete just couldn’t be caught.

“I knew I needed to go lows 45s to win,” said Weir. “In training I’ve been going as quick as him.

“But this is the toughest category in the world with three rounds in every event and I want people to know that.”

Weir is a multiple world champion but has never won a Paralympic gold from his two previous Games. This was the first of what he hopes will be five finals at the 2008 Games, a schedule that means racing 13 times in nine days.

The next one on is the 5000m final tomorrow night (Thursday).

Graeme Ballard gave it everything in the T36 400m final but ultimately paid for an over-ambitious early pace. The 29-year-old led at the 200 mark but with 100m champion Roman Pavlyk in the inside lane the Lancashire man was always likely to struggle in the closing stages.

Ballard’s strength deserted him in the final straight and he staggered home eighth in 59.22 as the Ukrainian took his second gold with a world record in 54.13.

“I went hell for leather and gave it everything,” said Ballard. “But I had lactic in the last 100m. I went off too hard but my intention was too stay with the guy in lane nine.”

The Chorley sprinter remains positive though. He won 200m bronze in Athens and has his best event to come.

He said: “The crowd went mad around the top bend so I can’t wait to hear them when I run the 200m. That’s where I think I’ve got a chance. I’m definitely fired up now.”

Stephen Payton also found the going tough in the T38 final. The South Shields sprinter was fifth in 54.02 as Tunisia took gold and silver through Farhat Chida and Abbes Saidi.

Payton cruised comfortably to 200m but ran out of gas just as he needed to kick for home.

“I got to 150m to go and had nothing left,” he said. “I’m more disappointed with the time because I’ve run much better than that in training.”

Payton’s first child was born on 8 August this year, the day of the Olympic Games opening ceremony. “I was hoping it would be lucky,” he said referring to the Chinese superstition.

The number eight featured for Gemma Prescott tonight too. The Loughborough student threw 11.01m to make the final cut of the F32-4/51-3 discus final, but couldn’t find the extra length she needed for a medal.

Prescott finished eighth as the Ukrainian Tetyana Yakybchuk won gold with a world record 17.05m.

For news updates on ParalympicsGB please visit www.paralympics.org.uk