Four World Records on Final Day
The Sainsbury’s International Para Challenge brought an incredible weekend of athletics action to a close at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a fitting celebration a year on from the Olympic Games opening ceremony.
David Weir (coach: Jenny Archer) provided the perfect swansong, sending the crowd into raptures as he returned to form winning the men’s T54 mile in a new world record 3.16.40. That was the fourth world record on a truly remarkable day of para-athletics, at an event which with 65,000 spectators boasts the largest ever crowd outside a Paralympic Games.
17 year old Will Smith (Archer) performed well finishing seventh in 3.54.79, but it was Weir who teased the crowd with his post-race interview.
“It should have been quicker but it was alright. I was expecting a bit quicker but maybe it was down to no race fitness. The crowd was brilliant. It’s always good, isn’t it? It’s a really good crowd and I love racing here. Just coming out here and doing the interview was special. I can’t wait to race here again.
“I think it should be a yearly thing here. This shows you how many people want to come and watch. A year on, you would have thought there might be a bit of a dip in the Paralympic movement, but there’s not. The Paralympics made a difference to everyone. A lot of normal, everyday people saw us do what we do and said ‘I’ve got to get off this sofa and do something. If those guys can do it I can.’ I think we’ve got to people’s hearts.”
There were two world records in the same race in the combined men’s T43/44 100m final. Brazilian Alan Oliveira broke his own T43 record, taking victory in 10.57, whilst Richard Browne recorded a new T44 world record of 10.75 in second. GB & NI’s Jonnie Peacock (Steve Fudge) was third in 10.84, which is a new British record, but he was disappointed not be able to take victory for the home crowd.
“It was fantastic conditions here today, a +1.9m/s wind and with a Mondo track like this you’re going to get absolutely rapid results. It’s exactly the form that these guys have been showing. I’m annoyed at myself because I should have been in there with Richard, but it just didn’t go to plan for me today and all I can say to everyone is sorry.
“The PB is 10.84 with a +1.9m/s wind, if I’d have had that wind for my race here at the stadium last year it would’ve been 10.74 again. So the conditions were good today and I just didn’t execute my race. All I needed to do was run like I did in my heats or my final in Lyon and I would have run similar, but I just messed up today. I’ve just go to say sorry.
“It’s [the change in size of blades] not affecting my start at all. It’s exactly the same problems that I had last year. Just last year there wasn’t people running these rapid times with me, so it’s just unfortunate, but I’ve got the medals, and that’s all we are here for this year. I always did want to say I am a time guy, and I’d like to say I still am, but hopefully I’ll come out next year after I have had a decent winter and hopefully we’ll get the record back then.”
Paralympic and world champion Richard Whitehead (Keith Antoine/Liz Yelling) came storming down the home straight to overturn a big deficit and win the men’s T42 200m. Whitehead got a poor start and had to ‘really dig deep’ to take victory in 24.86 and please the home crowd.
“Coming through the field was a recollection of London 2012. Sometimes I have to draw on energy from other systems - like I say I have a bit of a quad injury so I was driving with those arms. I was really relaxed coming off the bend, and there’s obviously quite a bit of wind here today, so I allowed for that. I couldn’t even tell you what my time was at the finish, I just wanted to get to the finish first and give them a bit of a gun salute at the end.
The women’s T33/34 100m produced the result the London crowd were hoping for, with ‘hurricane’ Hannah Cockroft (Jenni Banks) storming to victory, breaking the stadium record in the process. Her winning time of 17.80 saw her win by some margin, with Mel Nicholls (Job King) sixth in 21.80.
Post-race, Cockroft commented: “It’s incredible being able to compete with Mel (Nicholls), it’s just great to have her there. Not just for moral support, but the best memories are made in this stadium and we’ve just relived them in a way. It’s awesome to be able to share that with your best friend.
“We both felt a bit emotional out there. I was at the start line thinking ‘I can’t cry’, but it’s so amazing to be back here. Lyon was amazing, but this is a whole different league. You’re back in the place that made you who you are in a way – your home crowd and everything. 60,000 people here compared to 6,000. Lyon was good, but this is incredible.”
There was further success in the field, as World & Paralympic silver medallist Dan Greaves (Jim Edwards) went one better in London, taking victory in the men’s F44 discus with a throw of 57.42m, just days after winning silver at the IPC World Championships in Lyon. He beat world champion and world record holder Jeremy Campbell for the first time in two years, earning him the Sainsbury’s performance of the day award.
“It was great to be back in the Stadium. I knew I had a good throw in me, and was really frustrated with Lyon where a few things went amiss, but I am really pleased with 57 [metres]. I would have liked to have put on a show for the crowd with 60 [metres], but I just tried a bit too hard, but I had to go for it.
“The amount of support for Paralympic sport is unreal. It shows that the crowd are understanding, that it is elite sport, and hopefully I got that across today with the distances. You can tell by the crowd’s reaction when we were warming up and throwing 57 [metres] they loved it. I love the noise; I am really jealous of football players because they get that week-in, week-out, and I wish we could have this every week. Hopefully we are pushing the movement forward and we can have this every year.”
Aled Davies (Anthony Hughes) won both shot put and discus gold in Lyon earlier this week, and he returned to the UK to take shot put gold this afternoon with a stadium record throw of 14.31m.
“The people out here are what drive us to great performances. Lyon was a massive stepping stone for me and I had the chance to come here and deliver in a big stadium. Last time I got a bronze so this time I really wanted to win. It’s not the best throw for me but I wanted to go over 14m and that’s what I’ve done. I’ve had a hectic schedule but I’m happy.”
Graeme Ballard (Stephen Thomas) and Ben Rushgrove (Robert Ellchuk) recorded a fantastic 1-2 for GB & NI in the men’s T36 100m, clocking 12.33 and 12.75 respectively. Ballard, who was third in Lyon last weekend, was pleased with his run.
“That felt really good. The atmosphere was absolutely incredible. I had a good World Champs which put me in good stead for today. I feel pretty fresh from the World Championships but it was really hot out there. It was better conditions in here today. It’s all been absolutely brilliant.”
T12 world silver medallist Libby Clegg (Keith Antoine) clocked a season’s best 12.18 to win the women’s 100m, and said of her victory:
“I’m feeling pretty good. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get back in the stadium and compete in front of a massive crowd. It’s been incredible really and I’m so glad I’m here. We’ve just got back from Lyon last night so it’s pretty tiring but this is quite fun. The time isn’t bad either, nearly a PB so we’re happy with that.”
In the men’s T46 100m, Ola Abidogun (Thomas) was second in 11.12, only beaten by an Australian record breaking performance from Gabriel Cole. Abidogun clocked 11.12, exactly one tenth behind Cole, with Kyle Powell (Paul MacGregor) of GB & NI running a personal best of 11.53 to take sixth. Richard Chiassaro (Kenneth Day) was sixth in the T54 200m, in a time of 27.04, an event won by Dutch world champion Kenny can Weeghel. He broke David Weir’s stadium record with a 24.61 clocking.
In the men’s T36/37 800m, it was no surprise to see Paralympic champion Michael McKillop storm to a commanding victory, just missing his own world record when stopping the clock at 1.58.65. The GB & NI duo of Paul Blake (Ellchuk) and Dean Miller (Bud Baldaro) certainly gave the crowd something to shout about though when finishing third and fourth respectively. Blake crossed the line in 2.07.63, whilst Miller ran 2.09.65, a new personal best.
There was also a personal best for Bethany Woodward (Jared Deacon) who ran 14.34 to finish second in the women’s T37 100m final. Germany’s Maria Seifert took gold in a new national record of 14.08, which also equals the stadium record.
“The 100m isn’t really my event. So to come out here after everything I’ve done in Lyon and to get another PB, it’s absolutely amazing. To come back to this crowd – it’s immense. Absolutely, it feels better than last year because the crowd already know who we are. They know a lot more about Paralympics, so they can really get stuck in and enjoy it. The turnout is just brilliant.”
Stef Reid (Rana Reider) was the sole GB & NI representative in the women’s F42/44 long jump, and she finished fourth with a best jump of 4.30m, good for 508 points. Reid’s husband, Brent Lakatos of Canada was also in action, and he set a world and stadium record in the men’s T53 100m final, with a time of 14.34.
Sophia Warner (Stephen King) took bronze in the women’s T35 100m behind Oxana Corso of Italy and Virginia McLachlan of Canada. Her time of 16.61 equalled what she ran when finishing fourth in Lyon earlier in the week. In the women’s T11 200m, Tracey Hinton (Darrell Maynard) and her guide runner recorded a season’s best of 28.21 in third place.
Back in the field, Josie Pearson (Anthony Hughes) took silver in the women’s F31/32/51 club throw title just days after winning the world discus title in Lyon. Her throw of 13.49m earned her 909 points, just 90 points short of winner Becky Richter of Canada’s total, and she broke the stadium record with a throw of 14.70m. Pearson’s GB & NI teammates Gemma Prescott (Michael Woods) and Maxine Moore (Alison O’Riordan) were fourth and fifth respectively, Moore securing a new personal best of 18.60m.