After plundering the Olympic Stadium for medals on Day Eight, it was a rather sedate day in comparison for GB. Still, a lone valuable gold kept GB ahead of Russia going into the closing weekend of the Paralympics.
The all-important gold was, in fact, the first medal of the day and was won at the Olympic Stadium, so often home to iconic Olympic and Paralympic moments over these Games. It was former wheelchair rugby player Josie Pearson’s turn for home glory this time, in the women’s discus F51/52/53. Not only did she hurl her way to gold, she also managed to break a world record with a stunning 6.58m throw.
…a home crowd with everyone behind me has been absolutely amazing…
“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” she said after competing. “This is the culmination of so many years’ hard work. I was nervous waiting for my first three throws.”
“To compete in front of a home crowd with everyone behind me has been absolutely amazing. I’m never ever going to forget this feeling in my life.”
…painfully close to a gold medal…
There was a single medal for GB in the swimming pool too, courtesy of the Women’s Relay team. Heather Frederiksen, Claire Cashmore, Stephanie Millward and Louise Watkin were painfully close to a gold medal, but finished the 4x 100m 34 points medley three hundredths of a second behind their Australian rivals.
That was it for British top two finishes, but GB athletes did manage four more bronze medals before the close of play. Olympic Park tennis venue Eton Manor played host to one of these, as Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker earned a close-fought win in their Women’s Doubles bronze medal match.
The British pair proved too strong…
It went to three sets after their Thai opponents slogged their way to a 7-6 first set win before conceding the second set with the same score. The British pair proved too strong, however, as Shuker smashed an ace over to seal the final set 6-3 and claim bronze.
Tennis of the table variety provided two more bronzes for Paralympics GB, with both the men’s and women’s teams winning their medal matches. Will Bayley, Ross Wilson and Aaron McKibbin triumphed convincingly over German opponents Jochen Wollmert and Thorsten Schwinn 3-0 in their class 6-8 match.
…beat their Italian opponents…
It wasn’t quite such an easy ride for their female counterparts Sara Head and Jane Campbell in the women’s class 1-3 category, who took three hours and five sets to beat their Italian opponents. But beat them they did, bringing GB’s table tennis medal tally to four.
Yet one GB bronze stood out amidst today’s achievements, attracting headlines of support and of censure. It was Rachel Morris and Karen Darke’s turn to take on the gruelling challenge of the H1-3 Road Race at Brand’s Hatch, both with real chances of a medal. As it happened, the pair found themselves in third and fourth place, seven minutes ahead of the next cyclist, and decided to hold hands as they finished and to cross the line simultaneously. Sadly, their hopes of a joint bronze were dashed as officials insisted on splitting the two with photo finish scrutiny and consequently awarding the bronze to Rachel.
It was a gesture which sparked a range of responses, from admiration to scorn. Some called it a heart-warming show of solidarity and team unity, while others slammed the two cyclists for making a mockery of the spirit of competitive sport. Still, it made for a memorable finish, an eye-catching photo finish and yet another memorable Paralympic moment.