The third day of this three day meeting which was to celebrate one year since the 2012 Olympic Games were held in the city of London and the crowds flocked in their thousands to Stratford to have a final fling in the beautiful looking Olympic stadium before the place gets reworked to become the new home of West Ham United, all is not lost though because in 2015 the stadium will host five matches in the Rugby World Cup then in 2017 the World Athletics Championships will be held here as the track will be kept as one of the provisos of the legacy project.
Today it was the return of the Paralympic athletes to have their day in the sun with top class draws such as Hannah Cockcroft,Jonnie Peacock and David Weir coming to give the full house crowd an afternoon to remember, while nothing can ever topple Super Thursday when those three athletes all won on the same night,this afternoon was a chance to say thank you and for them to have another chance to race in front of an adoring and appreciative crowd.
Below,myself outside the Olympic Stadium.
Before the Paralympics if you asked anyone to name the most famous person who uses a wheelchair to be seen on C4 then like me you would think Brian Potter the licensee of Bolton’s Phoenix Club,indeed when it was announced that C4 had won the rights to show the 2012 Paralympics many people were surprised including myself but C4 went all out with the popular “That Paralympic Show” which was a regular Saturday afternoon show before the games and during the wonderful ten days of competition a more alternative nightly show called “The Last Leg” which was always good fun to watch and showed things from a different angle plus the inclusion of Lexi was the biggest help to all those watching on the television when it came to demystifying all the classifications in the events.
This afternoon the action was on the track and field and here are the classifications so you know what means what when reading.
T and F means Track or Field event.
11-13 A visual impairment.
20 Intellectual impairment
31-38 Co-ordination problems including cerebral palsy
40-46 A loss of limb or impairment
51-58 Wheelchair track athletes.
The classification is essential as it creates a level playing field for all athletes.
The highlights of the meeting for the crowd began at 3.15 when Hannah Cockcroft flew home in the Women’s 100m T33-34 for wheelchair athletes, this was a a case of ref stop the contest, as soon as the gun went then Hannah just went for it as she always does and nobody could get close to her, The Halifax Bullet is riding on the crest of a wave at the moment and for good measure the winning time of 17.80 broke the stadium record and no prizes for who held it before!
Below Hannah Cockroft hits the line in first place.
After her race it was the Men’s 100m T36 up next and a British victory again this time for Graeme Ballard with fellow Brit Ben Rushgrove behind him in second place, Ballard has an amazing electrifying pace at 34 and he ran a cracking race.
Australia then got something very rare in Britain this year and that was Gold in Men’s T46 100m with Gabriel Cole hanging on from the fast finishing Ola Abidogun in a winning time of 11.02, Cole got bronze in 2012 and this will be a nice bit of redemption for him.
One of the real class acts came up soon after with the Men’s 800m T36/37 which featured Paul Blake who won at Lyon in the World IPC during the week and Ireland’s Michael McKillop who won the Gold at the Paralympics although he is more a T38 grade and this showed given the way he destroyed this field, going to the front after 200m he was never going to be overtaken and won has he liked in a time of 1.58.65s, Paul Blake was third with his time of 2.07.63 but in all honesty that was a good performance as like McKillop both have Cerebral Palsy but the Irishmans is not as severe.
Three Team GB girls lined up in the seven runner Women’s 100m T37 race and Bethany Woodward ran the best coming home in second behind German runner Maria Seifert who won breaking the national record of 14.08 while Woodward got a PB of 14.34.
For me the performance of the day came later on with an outstanding piece of running by Richard Whitehead, a double amputee he runs with gold prosthetic blades on the track and he went in the Mens 200m T42, his style of running may be unusual to see at first but when he hits top speed it’s an amazing sight to behold on the track, in this race he began slowly but coming in off the turn he picked up and was flying down the straight from early pace setter Scott Reardon who was still in the lead with 40m to go but Whitehead took dead aim and it was all over bar the shouting.
Below,Richard Whitehead salutes the crowd.
Libby Clegg then followed later with a win in the Women’s 100m T12 final, only three went to the start in this race and it was victory for Clegg who was the only runner in this race who has a guide, The guides have a huge job when running alongside,a lot of trust is essential and the bond is very important as both must know each other to get the best results on the track, Libby Clegg won with a time of 12.18 with Hanika Kolnikova of Slovakia in second place of 12.42.
Then we come to what for many was the two signature events on the card,first up was the Men’s 100m T43-44 race which featured Jonnie Peacock and Alan Oliveira going head to head down the famous Tarmac in Stratford, Today though sadly the Peacock didn’t plume and it was Oliveira from Brazil who took the bragging rights for the 2016 Olympic hosts in a time of 10.57 which was a new world record while early leader Richard Brown who came second also broke the record for his classification in this race. Peacock was third but ran an honest race and he was simply outclassed on the day but more will come.
So onto the last track event of the day the Men’s Mile T54 which was a wheelchair race that featured David Weir, Gold medallist in 2012 in the 800m,1500m,5000m and Marathon he was expected to win this and indeed he was true his form as being the banker of the day with a devastating performance over this trip, The early pace was set by German Marc Schuh until after the first lap then he gave way to Mexican athlete Fernandez Sanchez Nava but coming into the straight after 700m done it was the Weirwolf who went to the front and simply put the race to bed and went clear to the roars of the Stratford faithful on this sunny afternoon in London, It was quite simply for me as stunning to see as Frankel at Ascot and Sprinter Sacre at Aintree, You always know class when you see it and David Weir is one of the best wheelchair racers around at the moment.
Below,The Mens Mile T54 begins.
Below,David Weir comes home in first place.
It wasn’t just the track though that took centre stage because the field events also occurred, in the Men’s Discus F44 Britains Dan Graves with a winning throw of 57.42m
The Women’s Long Jump F42/44 Steff Reid could only finish fourth in total but was second of the three F44 classes in this competition.
The Womens Club Throw F32/51 went to Canada’s Becky Richter with a best distance of 14.70m which was well ahead of Josie Pearson whose main effort came in at 13.49.
The Mens Javelin F57/58 only had four in it but the top prize went to Claudiney Batista Dos Santos who got a winning distance of 42.42m
TeamGB did get another gold in the field with Aled Davies in the Mens Shot Put F42 with a winning throw of 14.31m which was over a meter clear of the runner up Darko Kralj.
Today was an excellent afternoon of sport down in Stratford, an area that is slowly being regenerated and in a few years time when West Ham have moved in then new homes,offices and hotels pop up this will be an area of huge national importance.
One thing that nobody can deny about this is that the competitiveness element of the Para Athletics is just as tight as traditional athletics, the competitors certainly don’t want any patronising nonsense with phrases like “Aren’t you brave” or “Oh look at you on that track” when being spoke to, The competition is as fierce as anything with with no quarter given but sportsmanship is upheld at all times.
I can honestly say that this was a wonderful day of action and one of those “I was there” occasions that you can look back on and smile at.
The Olympic flame may have been extinguished but the city of London seems to have kept an ember from it somewhere and it slowly burns in the hearts of the people who want to make a positive impact on their lives.
Below,My view from the stands.