Changing your technique can be a risk, but one worth taking when it means moving on from silver to gold. Jonathan Broom-Edwards (Newham and Essex Beagles, Graham Ravenscroft), second in Rio five years ago, did exactly that to win a thrilling men’s T44 high jump (athletes with a leg deficiency) with 2.10m.
In a three-way battle that saw the lead change hands on more than one occasion, Broom-Edwards’ second time clearance secured him that much-sought after prize – the gold medal. “I am so emotional. To just get it right at the right time, I am so relieved, elated, excited and crying my eyes out,” said Broom-Edwards “I’ve been working hard and made some changes after the indoors, which weren’t helping me initially, but they’ve come right at the right time,” he said.
“I’ve been striving for that gold for years. They were horrible conditions, so I tried to keep my cool and get it right when it counted. And I am so proud of myself. Praveen (the silver medallist from India with 2.07m) pulled out a personal best and fair play to him, that put me on the back foot. I had to rise above that, and I am so proud that I did. 2.10m was a bit of an ugly jump but it was a season’s best, so I am delighted.
“For the last five years I worked a lot of mindfulness meditation,” he continued, “so I could understand my head. Nothing can compare to that environment out there; it is a whole different level of competition. So, to keep calm is quite challenging. I noticed myself wobbling a little bit, but I was able to bring it back. And I think my daily practice of mindfulness was key to staying focused on the task at hand.”
Another podium athlete, winning bronze, was Hannah Taunton (Taunton, Charlotte Fisher) who shattered her lifetime best by more than five seconds in the women’s T20 1500 (athletes with an intellectual impairment). She ran 4:35.34, hauling herself into a medal position with a fabulous last lap.
“It is an amazing achievement. I said to myself that I was really going to go for it on the last lap, and I stormed it, I absolutely did. I knew I could get that bronze medal, and I am so pleased I have done,” she said, describing how she moved from fourth at the bell to third around the final bend.
“My family and friends were really proud of me for being selected for Tokyo. I hope they are really excited by it (the bronze medal). I’ve really enjoyed this experience and the opportunity as well. I’m looking forward to having two big parties when I get home; a belated 30th birthday celebration and one to celebrate Tokyo,” she laughed.
If he so desired, surely double Olympic champion Richard Whitehead (Southwell, Keith Antoine) could be excused for taking it a bit easier given he’s now 45 years old. But sharp as ever out of the blocks, the London and Rio gold medallist clearly was in no mood to give up his men’s T61 200m title (athletes with a leg amputation) without a fight and led his teenage South African rival Ntando Mahlangu for fully 150 metres before handing over his crown 23.59 to 23.99.
“I had a great bend, but my 45-year-old body couldn’t sustain it,” he laughed. “I came off the bend, I was in the good position. But he (Mahlanga) did to me what I did to the guys in 2012. However, ever the competitor Whitehead admitted he was “disappointed because it was so close, and I think I could have run a bit quicker. The gold medallist in me is really disappointed but I will reflect on this as a positive season I think.”
He’s now looking to the future. “It’s not just about me, it’s about the bigger picture. If I can have a legacy in the event and help these guys, then that’s what I would want to do. It’s not all about self-gratification, it’s about the legacy you leave on the track.”
Despite being just 25 years old, Sophie Kamlish (Team Bath, Robert Ellchuk) also describes herself as “old now” albeit with a wry smile after finishing in what she calls a disappointing eighth place in the in the women’s T64 100m (athletes with a leg amputation) in 13.49. “I realised I was the only one there who was also in the London 2012 final,” she said, “but I won’t be giving up anytime soon,” she added. The Netherlands’ Marlene van Gansewinkel improved her Paralympic record she set the previous day to win in 12.78.
The Universal 4x100m relay (two men, two women, two classifications) was a thrilling race that saw the British quartet of Libby Clegg (Charnwood, Joseph McDonnell + guide Chris Clarke), Jonnie Peacock (Charnwood, Michael Khmel/Dan Pfaff), Ali Smith (Guildford & Godalming, Benke Blomkvist) and Nathan Maguire (Kirkby, Steve Hoskins) set a European record of 47.50 to win the silver, upgraded from bronze following disqualification for the team from China.
“This was my proudest Paralympic moment,” said Clegg in her last-ever race. “I’m so pleased to finish my career on the track with a medal.”
“It was an honour be involved,” added Peacock, while Smith couldn’t believe the team had been upgraded to silver. “I saw we had got upgraded while I was on the start line for the 400m heats,” she said, “so it helped me relax and then I went and ran a second PB of the week (62.68 to qualify for the T38 final along with Kadeena Cox), so I am really happy.
“It is my first ever global medal. I’ve won European medals before, but this is another level. I have loved been part of this relay team and I cannot believe we have won a medal.”
Maguire was also over the moon with how things unfolded. “Ali and I have got it pretty much spot on with the changeovers. She’s got to come down and tag a wheelchair which is a lot further down than her.
“There is a bigger team behind us who warmed up with us, so a big thank you to them. This is teamwork so we couldn’t have done it without them. We all managed to pull it out of the bag today and I am so proud to be a Paralympic medallist,” he said.
In the field, conditions were again tough to handle meaning it was a mixed day for England’s athletes. Polly Maton (Team Devizes, Colin Baross) finished seventh in the women’s T46 long jump (athletes with arm deficiency) with 5.19m while Lydia Church (Peterborough and Nene Valley, Jim Edwards) took eighth in the women’s F12 shot (vision impaired athletes) with 11.41m – a good throw after recovering from a fall, the slick circle again playing a significant role as it had done in the discus 24 hours earlier.
In the men’s T34 wheelchair 800m, Isaac Towers (Kirkby, Peter Wyman) and Ben Rowlings (Coventry, Job King) both advanced to the final, Towers clocking 1:46.58 for an automatic slot and Rowlings recording 1:48.21 as a next fastest qualifier.