British athletes managed thirteen more medals on day seven of the Paralympics, which pushed them to the brink of achieving their 103 medal target. However, a strong performance from the Russians saw GB pushed down to third in the medal table, three golds behind their second-placed rivals.
Day Seven marked the beginning of the cycling road races down at Brand’s Hatch, where GB were looking to recreate some of their velodrome excellence on the challenging outdoor course. Mark Colbourne opened the medal winning for the day with silver in the Men’s C1 Time Trial, finishing 14 seconds behind German rival Michael Teuber to claim his third medal of the Games.
…the Brit was looking to claim a remarkable third in the C5 Time Trial.
Karen Darke also raced her way to second on the podium in her Individual H1-2 Time Trial. The 41 year old had no chance of catching up American star Marianna Davis, who won the gold by nearly two minutes, but she did manage to hold off Switzerland’s Ursula Schwaller to claim another valuable silver for Britain.
Colbourne and Darke may have been beaten to gold, but no-one stood a chance of doing the same to swimmer-turned-cyclist extraordinaire Sarah Storey. With two track gold medals already stashed safely away, the Brit was looking to claim a remarkable third in the C5 Time Trial.
The former F1 racing driver famously lost both legs during a horrific racing crash…
She made it look easy, recording a blistering time of 22 mins 40.66 and leaving her nearest opponent trailing by over a minute and a half. Storey now needs just one more gold in the Women’s C4-5 Road Race to equal Tanni Grey-Thompson’s eleven gold record and establish herself as one of Britain’s most successful Paralympians in history.
But impressive as her performance was, the eyes of the world were riveted elsewhere in today’s races – on the inspirational figure of Italian Alessandro “Alex” Zanardi. The former F1 racing driver famously lost both legs during a horrific racing crash in 2001 but refused to let it hamper his athletic ambitions.
…he has refused to rule out returning in Rio to defend his title…
After meeting Paralympic handcyclist Vittorio Podesta in an Italian car park, where the pair bickered over a disabled parking space before starting to talk about Podesta’s handbike, Zanardi took up hand cycling. Within a few years, he had won the New York marathon in his category and claimed silver at the World Championships, but at Brand’s Hatch he went one better and snatched the gold.
The celebrations betrayed just how much this meant to the Italian veteran, who raised his bike above his head in elation and roared the Italian national anthem with furious gusto. Unsurprisingly, given his customary stubbornness, he has refused to rule out returning in Rio to defend his title, despite being significantly older than many of his rivals at the age of forty five.
…gold remained elusive even here as the pair found themselves overcome…
From one veteran to another – Peter Norfolk was devastated to find himself knocked out and unable to defend his Quad title after being knocked out of the singles competition, but still made it to the final of the doubles alongside Andy Lapthorne. Sadly, gold remained elusive even here as the pair found themselves overcome 6-2 6-2 5-7 6-2 by Americans David Wagner and Nick Taylor. The silver was of little consolation, judging from their distraught expressions after the match.
And so to an evening of swimming and athletics metalware. Golds proved hard to come by at the Aquatics Centre, where several British swimmers came in second by agonisingly close margins. Charlotte Henshaw was unlucky to miss out in the Women’s 100m Backstroke SB6, beaten to first place by Viktoriia Savtsova by just three hundreds of a second. It was an astonishing performance by her Ukrainian rival, who is just fourteen years old. Fellow British swimmer Liz Johnson finished behind Henshaw to claim the bronze.
…the youngster couldn’t maintain her lead…
Louise Waktin also came tantalizingly close to a gold in the Women’s 50m Freestyle S9 race, which saw her battle rival Ping Lin right to the end. The Chinese swimmer managed to finish fractionally ahead though, claiming the gold with a lead of just 0.09 seconds.
Hannah Russell also looked on course for top of the podium in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S12, finding herself in pole position at the turn. But the youngster couldn’t maintain her lead in the second length and ultimately had to settle for bronze. Robert Welbourn joins her in the bronze medal tally, after securing third place in the Men’s 400m Freestyle S8.
David Devine, meanwhile, battled his way up to bronze…
But nobody was getting in between 17-year-old Ollie Hynd and his gold medal in the Men’s 200m Individual Medley SM8. The teenager left his older brother Sam trailing in fourth place as he sped to victory, leading at the turn and holding on for the gold.
By contrast, it was a modest evening at the Olympic Stadium. Bethany Woodward was roared home in second place in her Women’s 200m T37 final to add yet another silver to GB’s tally. David Devine, meanwhile, battled his way up to bronze position on the final stretch of the Men’s 800m T12, overtaking Cuba’s Lazaro Rashid in the final 20m to make the podium.
A total of thirteen medals made this one of GB’s most successful medal days so far, but the two golds won just weren’t enough to prevent the Russians from leapfrogging Britain into second place in the medal table. GB athletes will need to produce some exceptional performances over the final four days of the Games to claim that longed-for second place which they achieved in Beijing.