Following a record-breaking morning, a medal-winning afternoon produced two superb bronze medals – one track, one field – for Great Britain’s athletes.
On his Paralympic debut, European champion Columba Blango (Shaftesbury Barnet, Chris Zah) flew to 47.81 to secure bronze in the T20 400m, finishing fast.
“For a first Paralympic final, that was very good,” he said. “I could see the Spanish athlete slowing down (Ramirez, fourth 48.05), so I just told myself, ‘You’ve got this’. I just kept going, I am so pleased to win a medal. This was a tough race; it was a whole different level from the heat yesterday. That was serious. It’s a major PB. Chris [his coach] knows my needs and wants, so we’ve worked well as a partnership. I’ve got a lot of gratitude for him to be in this position.
“My Dad [an Olympian for Sierra Leone in 1980] always said one day I would make it, and he was right. It was such a different experience to anything I had experienced before, so it is definitely a race of a lifetime.”
Olivia Breen (City of Portsmouth, Aston Moore), the 100m finalist earlier in the programme, took home the bronze in the women’s T38 long jump (athletes with coordination impairment). Her 4.91m was just shy of the 4.95m she achieved at the English Champs in Bedford earlier this year, but nonetheless she was understandably happy with the result.
“I am over the moon with a bronze medal,” she said. “I would have liked to have jumped over five metres, but the individual medal means so much to me. After I landed that first jump, I knew it was going to be a great competition. I just wanted to jump for my life and show what I can do. I was thinking about all the hard work I have put into this and try not to tense up. I needed to relax which is difficult to do in a major competition.
“This is my first individual Paralympic medal. I really wanted it in Rio, but I put too much pressure on myself. You just have to keep driving, keep working hard and just never give up. I am more mature, and I wanted to make the most of every minute of this experience.
“It is a dream come true. I am going to get quite emotional on that podium. When Aston told me I had won the bronze medal, I just couldn’t stop smiling.”
Making her debut was Hetty Bartlett (City of Norwich, Dennis Costello), who finished sixth in 4.05m. “It was amazing, the whole experience was incredible,” she said. “It’s my first Paralympics so I am really happy. I opened with a foul which was annoying, but I got into it after my second jump. I felt better after that once I had relaxed, so I could enjoy the competition.”
In the men’s T38 400 (athletes with coordination impairment) Shaun Burrows (Charnwood, Joseph McDonnell) was seventh in 53.25. “It was amazing for my first Paralympics. I think I executed the race perfectly. My plan was to try and follow the South African (Buis, fifth 51.39) because he is pretty quick, in fact everyone is (it was won in 49.99). Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch him, my legs were a bit tired after racing another 400m yesterday. That was a new experience for me so there is plenty to learn from.
“Joe is a fantastic coach and a great friend as well. Our training team is fantastic, and we all support each other, so I want to say thank you to them,” he said.
In the fastest ever men’s T54 1500m wheelchair race, Daniel Sidbury (Sutton & District/Velocity, Christine Parsloe) found his British record – a time more than half a second quicker than the old world-record good enough for only sixth.
Tactics went out the window as the USA’s Daniel Romanchuk went off like a rocket, passing 400m in an eye-watering 45.5. Switzerland’s Marcel Hug, recognising the danger closed the uncomfortably wide gap by 600m and by 800m (1:31.20) the whole field had bunched again.
But no-one could live with Hug’s acceleration down the backstraight with 300m left and the Paralympic record added the WR to his collection stopping the clock at 2:49.55 – with more in the tank.
Sidbury finished a magnificent sixth in 2:51.11, a British record while David Weir, always in contention just couldn’t find a finish on this occasion and was eighth in 2:53.84 – almost a second quicker than the day-old Paralympic record! The race was that fast!
“It was pretty chaotic,” said Sidbury, describing how it’s rare for a race to really get going so early on when drafting is so advantageous. “It didn’t feel superfast to be honest, but I think because everyone else was going quickly, it doesn’t feel that fast. There were some bottom clenching moments. Dave went up on one wheel which meant I had to go out wide, but I’m pleased I managed to finish the race well.”
Weir, the two-time Olympic champion, was happy enough at his return to the track: “I got knocked off balance with about 150m to go. I’m not sure if I would have medalled even if that hadn’t happened but I would have got a faster time. But things like that happen in races.
“Danny has come on so much in the last few years because he has studied racing and mastered the technique. He’s got the British record so well done to him. It’s a pleasure to have another Brit in the final.”
In the women’s F34 wheelchair shot, Vanessa Wallace (Enfield and Haringey, Alison O’Riordan) placed fifth with 7.63m. “I just didn’t have any power. It just wasn’t there – I felt like I was moving through slow setting concrete. I didn’t have speed or power on what I was doing so that was the result,” she said, disappointed with the competition.
“Training has been going well, previous competitions have gone well. I just don’t think the two and a half -hour wait helped. It’s not an excuse but it definitely was a factor. Everything just switched off. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t my day.”