FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Paralympic athletics at the Olympic Stadium

Posted in England, London by folkestonejack on September 5, 2012

A fine evening at the Olympic Stadium gave me a great chance to see some of the Paralympic track and field finals, including the qualifying heats for the T44 100m – perhaps the most eagerly anticipated of all the races in the Paralympic games.

The T44 100m has been billed by the media as the battle of the blade runners and it is been hard to find a newspaper that hasn’t splashed the contenders across their pages over the last week. The athletes likely to play a prominent part in the battle for the medal places include Paralympic GB’s 19 year old Jonnie Peacock, Paralympic poster boy Oscar Pistorius and Team USA’s Jerome Singleton. The three qualification heats opened proceedings at the Olympic stadium tonight and Jonnie Peacock gave a taste of what is to come when he equalled the Paralympic record with his time of 11.08 seconds.

The session included a packed schedule of 16 events and medal ceremonies. Although there was no sight of gold for Paralympics GB we did get to see David Devine summon up a cracking final effort to take the bronze in the T12 800m final. It was a close call and it took a while before the final placings could be confirmed. Only then could David begin a celebratory lap of the stadium.

Richard Colman (Australia) celebrates his victory in the Men’s T53 800m

There were so many incredible performances that it is hard to do justice to them all in this post, but Richard Colman’s storming race to victory in the Men’s T53 800m and Terezinha Guilhermina’s sheer exuberance after winning the Women’s T11 100m were highlights. Terezinha was racing with a guide and at the end of the race was seen putting her blindfold on her sighted guide and later gave us a tango with her guide from the top step of the podium!

Amongst the many victory ceremonies we saw two clean sweeps – an Algerian 1-2-3 followed a little later by a Brazilian 1-2-3. It was great to see the respect given to all the athletes each time the call went out, ‘as is customary, will all those who can, please stand for the national anthem of…’

Towards the end of the night we had the first of two relay finals – the Men’s T11/T13 4x100m Relay – for blind or visually impaired athletes. Because the athletes rely on sound to make their baton changes the capacity crowd of 80,000 was asked to remain absolutely silent until the last handover, which struck me as a more unusual spectacle than a crowd of 80,000 making noise! Once the final baton change had been made a huge wall of sound erupted from the crowd to spur the athletes down the final 100m leg. We were rewarded with the closest finish of the night – the Russians had been gaining on the Chinese through the last leg and crossed the line together. The photograph from the line gave the confirmation that Russia had just pipped China to the win.

The Russian and Azerbaijani teams on a lap of the stadium after the Men’s T11/T13 4x100m Relay

The evening drew to a close with the late night highlight of the Men’s T42-46 4x100m relay which promised to be quite a spectacle, particularly as we would see the athletes pass right by us (unlike the 100m races which had taken place on the far side of the stadium). The block I was in happened to align perfectly with a changeover point so we got to see the athletes arrive, drop their clothes (and their conventional prosthetic legs) into the boxes that the gamesmakers were guarding at each block and finally get into position.

Men’s T42-46 4x100m relay

The atmosphere when the race started was electric and a huge cheer went up when Oscar Pistorius brought the South African team home to victory in world-record beating time (41.78 seconds). Brazil and USA came second and third on the track – it was only much later that we learnt that both teams had been disqualified. After the race the South African team took a well deserved lap of honour to the applause of the crowd.

You can read more about the session in:

Pistorius gains sweet revenge over Oliveira (Independent)

Paralympics 2012: Jonnie Peacock takes on Oscar Pistorius in 100m final (Guardian)

South Africa storm to relay gold (London 2012)

ParalympicSportTV also have complete footage of the evening session on Athletics – 5-Sep-2012 – Evening.

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