19 year-old Sabrina Fortune (coach: Ian Robinson) won her first ever global medal on the biggest stage at the Paralympic Games, taking bronze in the F20 shot put with a new personal best.
Fortune arrived at the Games with two fourth places finishes to her name from the IPC Athletics World and European Championships but went one better in Rio, after an impressive series. Her opening effort of 12.33m consolidated third position early on but she knew the Greek athlete, Valasia Kyrgiovanaki would pose a threat later in the competition. However, after her opponent failed to go further than the Brit in the final round, the pressure was off and Fortune launched a huge personal best of 12.94m, 18cm further than her previous best set earlier this year.
A delighted Fortune said afterwards: “To get a medal and a PB is just unbelievable; it is such an honour to represent my country at these Games. I was focusing on what I did out there and I’m very proud of it. Going into the competition, I thought I had a chance of winning a medal but I wanted a PB before I did anything else.”
On getting her moment on the podium, the talented thrower said added: “It’s one of those things you dream about but you think it only happens to the famous people, I’m just someone who is your normal person who walks down the street.”
Her mum, Paula, surprised her daughter by flying out to Rio to watch her competition. When she saw her on her celebration lap, it was an emotional moment for both of them. Fortune said: “When I saw her, I literally burst into tears. To have her here is such a special thing for us both. To win a medal and be able to show it to her is very special for us.”
There was also a significant personal best for Rhys Jones (Christian Malcolm), who qualified for the T37 100m final as a fastest loser after taking fourth place in the race. With South Africa’s Charl du Toit breaking the world record in the heat, setting a time of 11.42 (+0.2), the results sheet was littered in personal bests and records. Jones lowered his best to 11.77, an improvement by 0.10 seconds.
After a difficult couple of years of injury, the Welshman was happy to be running so well and progress into the final on Sunday morning.
Jones said: ““You can’t argue with that can you? I would like to have run even faster but I have made the final so can try again. I gave my best and that is all you can ask for.
“Honestly, just getting here has been an amazing achievement form; it’s been a tough few years (after injuries). I was so close to giving up, going back two-three years ago; I just couldn’t deal with all the injuries and didn’t understand why it was happening to me. Now I know all the hard work was worth it, this is what it is all about. I’m looking forward to the final but this performance also gives me encouragement looking ahead to 2017 and the World Championships in London.”
There was an anxious wait for Sammi Kinghorn (Ian Mirfin) in the T53 400m after finishing fourth in the opening heat, with only the top three guaranteed of automatic qualification to the final. However, it was good news for the 20 year old as her time of 56.76 was good enough to see her advance as a fastest loser.
“That is what I came to do (make the final), so I’m more than happy now to be safely through to the final.
“I think I started to worry where everyone else was too much and look around. I remember being at school sports when I was younger and my mum used to say, ‘just look straight ahead’ because I used to run always looking around. I really need to work on that because I was concentrating too much on who was beside me and passing me, which went to my head a bit.
“After seeing the times that the girls have done, I know I can do it. I just have to rest up today and hopefully do it tomorrow.”
ParalympicsGB Athletics medal tally: (8)
Libby Clegg & Chris Clarke – T11 100m
Sophie Hahn – T38 100m
Georgie Hermitage – T37 100m
Jonnie Peacock – T44 100m
Stef Reid – T44 long jump
Kadeena Cox – T38 100m
Gemma Prescott – F32 club throw
Sabrina Fortune – F20 club throw