The battle for second place in the medal table intensified on the Paralympic’s penultimate day, as Britain and Russia continued to jostle it out for a finishing spot behind China.
It was a triumphant sign-off for Britain’s cyclists as David Stone put in a dominant performance in the Mixed T1-2 Road Race. The Beijing gold medallist, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was competing in the tricycle road race on the final day of cycling.
I was so scared today…
In the trike race, cyclists compete on bikes with three wheels since their disability means balancing on ordinary two-wheeled bikes is difficult for them. It was an impressive battle for gold between Stone and Italy’s Giorgio Farroni, but the British rider nipped into the lead on the final lap and managed a win with a seven second margin.
As he revealed after the race, the gold was far tougher to claim than back in 2008, something which both inspires and intimidates him. “Compared to Beijing the competition is so much better now,” he said. “It’s good – it pushes me. But I also hate it. I was so scared today, beforehand.”
…the Athens bronze medallist proved too much for Smith…
He wasn’t the only David to make it onto the podium. Britain’s only individual Boccia medal was won in the BC1 Individual event by 23 year old David Smith, who also has cerebral palsy. The aerospace engineering student had a lot riding on his performance, after being told by his girlfriend that she would refuse to marry him if he returned from the London games empty handed.
Although he was guaranteed at least a silver, Thailand’s Pattaya Tadtong stood in his way of a gold to add to his team bronze. As it turned out, the Athens bronze medallist proved too much for Smith, wiping him out 7-0 at the ExCeL centre.
…Lee defied the odds to finish third…
Smith admitted to being outplayed by his opponent, saying: “I gave it my best shot but he was too classy for me on the day I just tried to keep the score down and get some of my own ends but unfortunately that didn’t happen. I hit everything I tried to hit. Things didn’t quite come off but I gave it my all.”
Two swimming medals rounded off GB’s achievements for the day, although neither provided the crucial gold that would have kept Britain a step ahead of Russia. Harriet Lee defied the odds to finish third and claim a medal of her own in the Paralympics, just four months after coming out of intensive care.
…I wanted to prove everyone wrong…
“Four months ago I wasn’t meant to be here, I wasn’t meant to be walking let alone swimming so be able to get here and get away with a medal is an amazing feeling,” said the 21 year old.
“After being in intensive care, I was told I wouldn’t make it here so I wanted to prove everyone wrong and show everyone that I could get here and that I’m made of harder stuff than they seemed to think I was.”
…the American finishing first in a world record time.
The final medal of the day saw Ellie Simmonds, GB’s unrivalled swimming star, race for a fourth medal to add to two golds and a bronze. Finishing the S6 100m Freestyle Final in a time of 01:14.82, she managed a Personal Best and broke her own European record. But impressive as this was, the might of the USA’s Victoria Arlen was too much for her, the American finishing first in a world record time.
“I saw Victoria on the last 15 metres and just thought put my head down and go for it,” Simmonds revealed after the swim. “It’s great to be on the podium again – I would have loved the gold but you can’t have everything.”
…GB will feel they are deservedly going out on a universally acknowledged high.
That’s certainly a lesson South African Paralympic legend Oscar Pistorius has learned this games, who had to settle for silver in the 200m T44 and fourth in the 100m. But in his signature event, the 400m, he wasn’t letting anyone anywhere near his Beijing title. Roaring defiantly round the track, he crossed triumphantly for the gold and a new Paralympic record, more than three seconds ahead of his nearest rival.
By contrast, a barren medal night for Britain at the Olympic Stadium saw Russia nudge Britain back to third place in the medal table, with 35 golds to GB’s 33. It means Britain are highly unlikely to finish in the hoped-for second position, with just two more GB medal chances to come on the final day.
Still, few are likely to dwell on that particular hiccup, considering that Paralympics GB have smashed their Beijing medal total, winning 16 more medals than they did back in 2004. As we launch into the final day of the Games, GB will feel they are deservedly going out on a universally acknowledged high.