Despite 11-time Paralympic gold medallist Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson describing Day One as a quiet day as most Britons are yet to compete, as ever the blue riband event – the 100m – provided plenty of fireworks.
The men’s T47 100m final (athletes with arm deficiency, impaired muscle power or impaired passive range of movement in arms) was nothing short of sensational with Brazil’s Petrucio Ferreira dos Santos flying to a Paralympic record of 10.53 after his impressive 10.75 easing down in qualifying provided further evidence that Tokyo’s track is indeed lightning fast. It was back-to-back titles for the world record holder and former futsal player who didn’t even own a pair of running shoes when he took up sprinting. England’s Ola Abidogun (Horwich, Grant Barker) finished fourth in his semi in a season’s best of 11.17, but the 2012 bronze medallist was understandably frustrated at coming so close to making it through. “I’m two hundredths away from a place in the final so I’m devastated. It is a season’s best so I can take that away from me. But it’s not close to my PB (10.92),” he said, adding, “I’ve had a difficult last 18 months, I’ve had an ankle injury recently which is a sprinter’s curse. So, it is nice to be able to run again – I was still struggling with it in July (when he ran 11.32 in Bedford at the England Champs). But I know I have more to give and should have reached that final.”
Britain did emerge with a medal as in the women’s T35 100m (athletes with coordination impairment), Scotland’s Maria Lyle (Team East Lothian, Jamie Bowie) who, like Abidogun raced at the England Champs in Bedford back in July took home the bronze in 14.18 in a repeat of Rio.
“It was always going to be difficult to challenge for gold and silver, so I really had to stick to my own race plan. I didn’t expect the time. It was hard to gauge where I was because the other two girls (China’s Zhou and Australia’s Holt) were quite far ahead, but I just focused on what I needed to do for my race. I know from my heat I seized up a bit, so I knew I had to relax more,” she said.
China’s Xia Zhou won in a world record of 13.00.
In the F32 Women’s Club throw (athletes competing in a wheelchair), Gemma Prescott’s (Challenge Disability Sports Club, Michael Wood) task was made all the more difficult when Paralympic debutante Ukraine’s Anastasia Moskalenko produced an impressive series that saw her throw beyond 24 metres with her final two efforts, her sixth round 24.73 good enough for gold. Prescott, the Rio and London bronze medallist did reach 18.28 with her third throw, but she could go no further on this occasion and ended up seventh.
“I’m a little bit disappointed with the distance, I could have probably thrown further,” she said. “Having had surgery (spinal fusion) two years ago, I said to myself my target was to make it to the Games, so I’m happy that I’ve achieved that. I honestly didn’t know if I’d throw again after the surgery. With covid and all the restrictions on training, I’m probably not back to the full fitness I was before. But I’m grateful to be here and to put on a GB shirt once again.
“We’ll see where the next year goes. I never plan more than one year ahead at a time. I said I thought Rio would be my last Paralympics, so this one is already a bonus but having said that before, who knows where I will be in three years’ time.”
David Weir (Weir Archer Academy, Jenny Archer), the multi-time winner of the London Marathon and four-time gold medallist in 2012 is still racing at the very highest level after officially retiring live on TV in 2017. Since then, he’s been putting a lot of work in on the roads and could yet figure in the marathon next week, but on the track, the 42-year-old faded off the pace after four laps of the men’s T54 wheelchair 5000m to finish eighth in 10:49.05.
“I said I would retire from the track in 2017 and I’ve been doing marathons since including London, New York and Chicago but the reason I’ve gone back to the track has been Covid-related – there haven’t been many races, only one last year,” he said before his return in a pre-race interview.
Switzerland’s Marcel Hug eased across the line in a Paralympic record of 9:53.26. In the second heat, which was far more tactical Daniel Sidbury (Sutton & District/Velocity, Christine Parsloe) covered every move early on and was still in touch with a kilometre left, but because of a tyre problem he couldn’t match the big kick with 600m to go and had to be content with a non-qualifying eighth in a season’s best of 10:26.65. “It was a disorientating experience. When you are going at those speeds and you have sweat in your eyes, it is difficult. But it was really good fun,” he said. “I watched the previous heat on TV so I could get a sense of how others were pushing and what the track was like. I was doing well in the opening few laps and I was holding pace and responding to the moves the guys were making, and then I noticed I was struggling to take the bends and the wheel was going all over the place, so I realised I had a puncture and the wheel had gone flat about a mile in. I was wrestling with that tyre for the other two miles. I kind of burnt out a little bit which was a shame.”