Mirroring her dominance in the sport, Hannah Cockroft (Halifax, Jennifer Banks) flew to a commanding early lead in the first 100 metres of the women’s T34 wheelchair 800m and powered away for her seventh Paralympic gold medal.
Like so many sprinters, she happily admits two laps is not her favourite distance, but her times suggest otherwise as she smashed her own Paralympic record of 2:00.62 to win in 1:48.99, just 0.12 shy of the world mark.
“To be so close to the world record is gutting, but I am so happy to win the gold,” she said, revealing that she “had a little accident in warm-up which I wasn’t sure if it would affect my chance, but it didn’t, I got a good start and I got around well.
“Rain and wheelchairs don’t mix very well. I slipped and put my hand through the wheel, so I cut my hand, so it is a little bit sore.”
Indeed, the rain was so hard she had debated whether she’d need a visor to stop the spray, but in the end, she opted for a clear view and executed her pre-race plan pretty much perfectly. “I knew it was my race to lose. I’ve gone a lot quicker than the other girls this year. I made a couple of mistakes (there were a couple of slips on the backstraight), but it’s all about the medal at the end of the day, not about the time. To go that close to the world record on a wet day, I’m not complaining.”
Who knows? She could beat that at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games next year. “A home Games. I can’t wait,” she said, anticipating just that.
Behind her, England had two other competitors in the form of Kare Adenegan (Coventry, Job King) and Fabienne Andre (Weir Archer Academy, Jenny Archer), who finished second and fourth respectively.
Like Cockroft, Adendegan, the bronze medallist in Rio, had a specific race plan and like Cockroft, she stuck to it and was rewarded with personal best of 1:59.85. while Andre’s time of 2:09.09 was also a lifetime best. “I really wanted to get a PB out there today, so I am so happy that I managed that. I focused very much on my own race plan. I know my start is my strength, so I have to get away very fast to create a gap, so I’m really pleased that it paid off,” Adendegan said.
“I achieved what I set out to achieve so I’m really proud of myself. It’s been a tough couple of years, so I’m really pleased of how I performed.”
Also emerging from a tough couple of years is Kadeena Cox (Sale, Matt Cullen) who lined up in the women’s T38 400 final (athletes with coordination impairment) as the reigning champion. However, she’s struggled with a succession of injuries, which have restricted her training to just five weeks preparation and she knew despite winning two golds in cycling at the start of the Games it would take something special to medal.
In the end, she clocked 61.16 to finish fourth – certainly special, but not enough on this occasion as Germany’s Lindy Ave ran 60.00 for a world record. Indeed, 60.17, 0.6sec faster than Cox’s Paralympic record would only win bronze such was the strength in depth in this event, which for the first time featured rounds.
“It’s been frustrating; I came here with just a 67 so to come away with a 61 is really good. I honestly didn’t think I would run that fast,” said Cox, ever the winner, revealing that at one point in her preparation her physio had told her to “pull back on the athletics as it might affect the cycling.” She wasn’t having any of that though and was prepared to take the risk to see what she could do. “It was my quickest time since Rio,” she said, stunned it had been such a fast race.
Relay silver medallist, Ali Smith (Guildford and Godalming, Benke Blomkvist) finished eighth in 63.05 after dipping inside 63 seconds in the semis.
Also in fourth was Zak Skinner (Loughborough, Aston Moore), who was in a bronze medal position until the sixth round of the men’s T13 long jump (vision impaired athletes). But the USA’s Isaac John-Paul touched down at 6.93m, just 2cm better than Skinner’s 6.91m and the European silver medallist had to settle for fourth.
It was all about tactics in the men’s T34 wheelchair 800m as Tunisia’s Walid Ktila edged it on the line to win the gold in 1:45.50, after being almost 1.5 seconds slower than Cockroft at 400m (55.13 to 56.59). Along the backstraight Isaac Towers (Kirkby, Peter Wyman) did make a strong move, edging up from seventh to second but the huge pack swallowed him up in the final 150 metres and he had to settle for seventh in 1:48.08, while Ben Rowlings (Coventry, Job King) was eighth in 1:48.63.