On a magical night for the British team at the IPC Athletics European Championships, six gold medals were won and nine in total on the evening session of day two.
The six-time Paralympic champion David Weir (coach: Jenny Archer) looked in supreme form as he took the T54 5000m title. In scenes reminiscent of London 2012, Weir moved away from his rivals with ease in the home straight to power to the European gold medal in a time of 11:15.95.
Weir spoke afterwards: “I knew coming in here that I was in good shape – I haven’t done a 5000m on the track this year but I have the speed from the road and the mile I did the other week, so I’m happy to transfer that onto the track. I’m getting lots of mileage in on the road but also some quality speed work on the track.
“My speed looked good on the last lap – 22 mph is pretty good for me but there is a bit more to give and that is good for the shorter stuff such as the 800m and the 1500m. I’m happy with any medal here at the Europeans but it is all looking good for Rio.”
This followed a remarkable T42 100m final which saw Richard Whitehead (Keith Antoine) take a narrow win in the last couple of strides. It took a 12.21 (-0.3) clocking to take the gold medal and earn another visit to the top on the podium. David Henson (Roger Keller) earned a personal best of 13.07 to take seventh place, and the Invictus Games champion provided inspiration to Whitehead prior to the race.
Whitehead said: “When I run it is about been organised with my running and being very calm and collected. That probably wasn’t my best 100m race but it is about performing in the finals. I knew a 12.2 would probably win it today. Myself and Keith Antoine (coach) had done some work on the warm-up track before but I felt in cracking shape.
“It is great to have competitors like Dave Henson alongside me. He brought some things to light in the call-up area, about how important running is to him. It put the light switch on for me. Running isn’t all about the medals but getting that message out to people and inspiring them. People like Dave inspire me.”
Just three centimetres shy of his own world record, Aled Davies (Ryan Spencer-Jones) looked in fine form in the F42 shot put final. His third round effort of 16.11m was the culmination a great set of throws which the Welshman is keen on practising ahead of his battle against his Iranian rival at the Rio Paralympics in September.
Davies commented: “I love titles. I took my first European title in Swansea so I wanted to retain it. I wouldn’t have been happy this evening if I hadn’t won. I’ve shown people what I am capable of doing and I’m excited for the year ahead because I know I am just scratching the surface.
“This British team is so special – since London 2012 we have brought in so many new guys and so much talent. I have seen the team develop over the last few years and I know they are all going to deliver on the main stage and I’m excited to be a part of that.”
Earlier Maria Lyle (Tabo Huntley) captured her third European title in the T35 100m final and shows the progression the 16 year-old is making in her build up to the Games in September. She recorded a time of 14.45 (-0.9).
The Scottish athlete spoke afterwards: “I’m definitely happy that I’ve got my title again but I’m a little disappointed with how I ran it. I’ve got plenty of time before Rio to sort that out. It will be good to sort the mistakes out from my 100m to the 200m. I’m also looking forward to the relay and racing again with the girls.
After disappointment in Doha at the world championships last year, there was elation for Richard Chiassaro (Jenni Banks) who secured his first European title over the T54 200m. By his own admission, he is stronger in the 400m and 800m, so this victory will show his rivals that he is an athlete in top shape, especially with a championship record of 25.14 (-0.3). Compatriot Nathan Maguire (Steven Hoskins) completed a successful debut appearance for GB with a career best of 26.48 for seventh place.
Chiassaro added: “It will be a memorable experience going onto that podium. After Doha (IPC Athletics World Championships) I was so disappointed but Jenni Banks (coach) and I went away and worked on the things which needed changing and it is working so far.”
Rounding off the gold medals on the night was Mo Jomni (Jenny Archer) who added to his 400m European title in Swansea with victory in the T53 200m, in 26.64 (-0.6) which was a championship record.
The Weir-Archer Academy athlete was delighted to seize the gold: “It feels great – I’ve never been a European champion over 200m before. It was a fast race – the field is getting really strong. It’s all helped me as I look forward to the 400m tomorrow and was a real eye opener.”
The women’s T38 200m final was a stunning race as Sophie Hahn (Joe McDonnell) and Kadeena Cox (Brian Scobie) took silver and bronze respectively in personal best times. Hahn ran 26.67 (-0.3) taking 0.15 seconds off her previous best as she was pipped in the last few strides by Russia Margarita Goncharova who set a world record of 26.46. Cox won the bronze lowering her previous best to 27.40. Olivia Breen (Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo) finished in seventh in 28.37.
There was further bronze medal success in the T51 100m as Steve Osborne (Jenni Banks) finished in 22.05 (-0.1), matching his result from Swansea two years ago.
On a busy night for the British team, Amy Wareing (Jim Edwards) finished fifth on her GB senior debut in the F38 discus with a best effort of 24.25m. Dylan Harris (Adrian Brown) was fourth in the T38 200m in lifetime best of 26.11 (-1.2) and Zac Shaw (Joe McDonnell) was seventh in the T13 100m in a time of 11.38 (-0.4).
Action continues at 9:00 UK Time tomorrow and you can watch full coverage here: https://www.paralympic.org/grosseto-2016
British Athletics medal tally at the IPC Athletics European Championships:
Richard Chiassaro – T54 200m
Aled Davies – F42 Shot Put
Dan Greaves – F44-46 Discus
Mo Jomni – T53 200m
Maria Lyle – T35 100m
David Weir – T54 5000m
Richard Whitehead – T42 100m
Sophie Hahn – T38 200m
Carly Tait – T34 100m and 400m
Isaac Towers – T34 400m
Jonathan Broom-Edwards – T42/44 High Jump
Kadeena Cox – T38 200m
Steve Osborne – T51 100m
Ben Rowlings – T34 400m