The much talked about pre-Games warm weather strategies put in place to cope with Tokyo’s heat and humidity were not required on a day which was very wet and decidedly cool.
But if the conditions were testing – and they were – it didn’t appear so in the men’s F13 javelin (vision impaired athletes) as Daniel Pembroke (Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow, David Turner) threw a massive Paralympic and European record of 69.52m in the third round
It was a three-metre personal best, but he needed to be in that kind of form as Iran’s Ali Pirouj went even better with a nine-metre lifetime best in the final round with 64.30m to grab the silver. Tough conditions? Not for these incredible athletes!
“I was expecting to throw big, but to do the Paralympic record is amazing, I can’t believe it,” said an emotional Pembroke afterwards as he thanked everyone who had helped him achieve the dream of turning 2012 Olympic hopes into Paralympic reality after he gradually lost his sight.
“I had an accident to my elbow just before the Olympic Games in 2012. I was going for the qualifying mark for the Games, and I snapped my medial collateral ligament in my elbow. I knew I had this limited eye condition (RP) then, so I had little time with usable sight. It was my big ambition to travel so I hastily decided to leave athletics behind and travelled to some beautiful places in the world, New Zealand, Sardinia – where I met my soon to be wife. I’ve seen some amazing things after saying goodbye to athletics in 2013.
“I’ve worked really hard in a short period of time to get where I am at the moment, so in the future, my sights are on the world record so hopefully I will get that soon. When I competed in able-bodied athletics over ten years ago, my PB was 75.89m, but I’m an older man, so the body isn’t quite as sharp as it used to be.
“But I’ve been given a second chance in sport, so I am very grateful to be here. I was wiser and calmer when I returned to the sport. There is more strategy behind the throws now, it is not just raw power. I’ve got a wiser head on me now.”
Towels to dry the circle rather than wipe away sweat were very much order of the day in the men’s F44 discus (athletes with a leg deficiency). Coping with it best of all was the world record holder USA’s Jeremy Campbell who effectively ended the competition with his very first throw of 60.22m, while England’s Dan Greaves (Charnwood, Zane Zuquemin) slowly found his rhythm – and the odd dry patch – to hit 53.56m in the third round for a bronze to add to the one he won in Rio (along with a silver in London).
“It was some of the toughest conditions out there - probably the wettest and slippiest I have ever competed in, so I knew that it was going to be whoever got a decent throw out. I was a bit annoyed I didn’t throw any further than 55m, but I battled to the bitter end. Luckily, I had shoes in the locker so to speak and could change to ones that had grippy soles,” said the six-time medallist from six different Paralympics. “If you’d told me in Sydney in 2000 that I’d still be throwing I wouldn’t have believed you,” he laughed.
“I am really pleased to have some hardware to show my children - my sixth consecutive medal. I feel so old saying that!”
Another athlete who coped with the testing conditions well was Anna Nicholson (Gateshead, Richard Kauffman) in the women’s F35 shot (athletes with coordination impairment) as she produced a solid series given the conditions to finish sixth in 8.03m, a season’s best.
“It was quite wet, but I’m used to that from the north of England,” she laughed. “It was a good competition, and I was quite consistent with my series of throws. I’m slightly frustrated because I know I have more in me to be challenging for those medals.
“I wanted to come here and enjoy the experience. It is an honour to be a Paralympian and I will be aiming for Paris because I want to be winning a medal there. We have the World Championships in Japan next year so hopefully I’ll be there, and it will be a stepping board for 2024.”
The women’s T11 200m heats (vision impaired athletes) demonstrated just how much the event has progressed in recent seasons as Libby Clegg (Charnwood, Joseph McDonnell) [and her guide Chris Clarke] clocked 27.93 to finish third – failing to progress to the semi-finals.
“To finish my career in the Paralympic stadium in Tokyo is amazing. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be here so I’m happy,” the Rio 100m and 200m Olympic champion said. “For me, this Games is a year too late. I was ready for it last year; I was in phenomenal shape. It’s been a really tough 18 months for all the athletes; it’s hard but it is what it is. I’ve still got the relay to come tomorrow which I’m really looking forward to, so I’m ready for that one.
“It has been such an honour to be on such a successful team. There are some incredible young athletes coming through on the Futures programme who are just starting their journey so I’m happy to see them developing out here.
“The girls in that field [T11] are really pushing on and the class is developing so it’s been an honour to have been a part of it for all these years.”
In the women’s T64 100m heats (athletes with a leg amputation) Sophie Kamlish (Team Bath, Robert Ellchuk) advanced with 13.32 thanks to a great start, although she’ll have to be in top form come the final as the winner in her heat, The Netherlands’ Marlene van Gansewinkel clocked a Paralympic record of 12.82.