A fabulous start – and not just to the week – secured gold for Andrew Small (Stockport, Rick Hoskins) and a surprise win in the men’s T33 wheelchair 100m, ahead of favourite Kuwait’s Ahmad Almutrairi.
Had the race been another five metres the result may have been different, but Small’s incredible first 30m meant he had a big enough advantage to hold off the Kuwaiti’s late charge to win in 17.73 to 17.83.
“I don’t ever expect outcomes,” said Small, inspired to take up athletics after watching Hannah Cockroft and David Weir win in 2012. “But I definitely felt more comfortable in my ability this time around, and that is all down to the experiences I have had over the last few years. The start was good and that really put me in a good position.
“I’d like to thank my coach Rick, my support team, and my family most of all for all they have gone through over the last two seasons. We’ve put a lot of hard work into this. It has been worth all the training sessions in the garage over Zoom. It’s wonderful to have all that work over the last five years pay off.”
It was a loaded final in terms of Britons, with Wales’ Harri Jenkins (DSW Para Academy) taking bronze in 18.55 just ahead of England’s James Freeman (Weir Archer Academy, Jenny Archer). “I feel immensely grateful to be here and I’m really pleased with my performance,” said Freeman. “I didn’t get much sleep last night as there was a lot of anticipation ahead of the race. To race against great athletes like this is a privilege. I’ve had 11 years in the sport, this is a huge achievement for me. It is culmination of a lot of hard work. My work ethic has never faulted so I’m really proud to be competing here and finish fourth.”
The men’s T64 100m (athletes with a leg amputation) was always going to take centre stage as it starred double Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock (Charnwood, Michael Khmel/Dan Pfaff).
A hugely popular athlete, not least because of his appearance on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, he’s used his celebrity status to great effect creating the Blade Camp mentoring programme, helping young amputees achieve their dreams.
On form alone, Peacock lined up third favourite on this occasion but never doubt his competitive nature; what a race! Peacock ran a superb opening 30 metres, recognising that was his weakness in qualifying, and for all but the final 20 metres it looked as if he’d defend his title.
“I should have won,” he said afterwards partly happy with his bronze given the injuries he’s endured in the past couple of seasons, but mostly aggravated he made a couple of errors in the closing stages that perhaps cost him. “One side of me is super happy that I was able to turn my season around and be competitive in that race. The other side of me, after I’d watched it back, was really annoyed. I was in a really good position at 60 metres. If you had asked me before the race for that, I would have said ‘no way I am taking that gold’.
“I need to have my shoulders over my hips, but they started going backwards in the last 20m, so my knee started going up, so you are in a situation where you are going backwards,” he continued.
It needed something special in this loaded final as Germany’s Felix Streng won in 10.75 from Costa Rica’s Sherman Guity Guity, who ran 10.78. “Wow, what a breakthrough,” said Peacock who shared the bronze with Germany’s Johannes Floors in 10.79 – inseparable even to thousands of a second.
In the men’s T34 wheelchair 100m Ben Rowlings (Coventry) finished eighth in 16.77, with Tunisia’s Walid Ktila setting a Paralympic record of 15.00. “I’m not happy with how I started the race, technically it wasn’t the best,” said Ben. “I needed to be with the guys at the start. The class has got really strong over the last few years, so I know I’ve got work to do on the 100m.”
Like so many, however, the 100m is his secondary event and he’s now looking forward to two laps of action. “I’ve got the 800m to come which is my primary event,” he said. “I’ve got a feel for the call room process and racing on the track so hopefully that experience will help for my 800m.”
Monday was all about qualifying in the men’s T38 400m (athletes with coordination impairment), which Shaun Burrows (Charnwood, Joseph McDonnell) did comfortably, easing up with fully 100m left to run to finish second in 53.72. His PB of 53.02 looks ready for revision
It wasn’t quite so relaxed in the men’s T54 1500m wheelchair heats, but David Weir (Weir Archer Academy, Jenny Archer) and Daniel Sidbury (Sutton & District/Velocity, Christine Parsloe) advanced to the final in a super quick second heat. Weir, the winner of this event in 2008 and 2012 was always in touch with the leader, Switzerland’s Marcel Hug who broke Weir’s 2008 Paralympic record to win in 2:54.63. Weir finished fourth just outside the automatic qualifying places in 2:55.84, while Sidbury’s 2:56.26 in sixth was a PB and easily quick enough to advance. In the first heat Richard Chiassaro (Harlow, Jennifer Banks) didn’t qualify, finishing eighth in 3:05.44, a far more tactical race.
Running in the men’s T20 400m heats (athletes with an intellectual impairment), the European champion Columba Blango (Shaftesbury Barnet, Chris Zah) clocked 48.78 easing up in second to advance to the final.
“That was a very tough heat to run. My advantage is my speed, so I tried to maintain it to the home straight and hold on. I gave everything I had to get to the final,” he said.
“You never know what is going to happen tomorrow. I just need to relax now and be ready.”