12 Sep 2016
Whitehead retains Paralympic title
Richard Whitehead stormed to 200m victory on Sunday night to retain the Paralympic title he won in front of adoring crowds at London 2012 four years ago.
The Loughborough based marathon runner turned sprinter got off to his usual slow start, but once he was up to speed he tore through the field to stop the clock at 23.39 having broken the Paralympic record in qualifying.
"I saw the finish line, knew I'd won with about 20 metres to go and lots of things went through my head about how hard I have had it over the last 40 years and everybody that has supported me.
"It's been such a long journey of ups and downs; it's great to be Paralympic champion again."
“The team as a whole is full of great ambassadors for the sport, and I enjoy being team captain. This has followed on from the success of Team GB, to try and be the greatest team ever and it has always been a pleasure to represent my country, whether that be as a participant or as team captain.”
The women’s para-triathlon also took place on Sunday, the fourth day of competition, with Alison Patrick and guide Hazel Smith winning a stunning silver medal in the PT5 event, for athletes with visual impairments.
The race was always close, Patrick and Smith in silver medal position after the bike. Often the strongest runner in the field, Patrick said she struggled with the intense heat on the hottest day of the Games so far, but still came through for silver.
“We hadn’t seen them [the Australians] race all season so we didn’t know where they were at, but they were very strong. We felt the heat massively today on the run, which is normally my strength and where I’d usually make up any time that I’d lost on anyone, but it was just so tough today. It’s going to be amazing just to let our hair down; we haven’t done that in such a long time.”
Another Loughborough based athlete Faye McClelland made up a lot of ground on the run in PT4 race, moving from seventh after the bike to fourth at the finish, just outside the medals. Clare Cunningham, Paralympic swimming champion at Atlanta 1996, finished in an excellent seventh place in her new sport.
That brace of medals from Whitehead and Patrick takes Loughborough’s total to 10 medals, six of which are gold.
Current Loughborough University student Amy Conroy top scored with 15 points as ParalympicsGB’s women’s wheelchair basketball team secured their place in the knockout stages. Hosts Brazil were never ahead as GB ran out 63-32 winners.
Both Laurie Williams and Judith Hamer made solid scoring contributions in a strong all-around display, but it was Conroy who stole the plaudits. Afterwards she said:
“We felt awesome and the atmosphere was amazing, playing the hosts. We’re staying hungry and humble and taking each game as it comes and that’s working for us.”
After the disappointment of a disqualification in the 100m earlier in the Games, Jordan Howe bounced back impressively to confirm his place in the T35 200m final. The Welshman was quick out of the blocks and ran a controlled bend before easing off in the final few metres to take third place in 27.61 and go through as an automatic qualifier.
“It is a tremendous way to bounce back. I couldn’t have asked for better – I was with the guys all the way through. After the 100m, I was devastated because that was my main event but now I put all my focus on the 200m and I am ready to go. I’m really looking forward to competing in that final tomorrow.”