Paralympic happy hour for Kiwis in Rio!
Highlights from Rio today:
• GOLD and WORLD RECORD – Mary Fisher in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S11
• SILVER – Sophie Pascoe in the Women’s 50m Freestyle S10
• SILVER – Liam Malone in the Men’s 100m T44
• BRONZE – Rory McSweeney in the Men’s Javelin F44
• Sophie Pascoe takes home New Zealand’s 200th Paralympic medal
The New Zealand Paralympic Games Team continued their winning ways in Rio de Janeiro again today, adding four more medals in just one hour, to increase its haul to six in total, two of each colour. Yesterday, long jumper Anna Grimaldi won gold and Rebecca Dubber took out bronze in the pool.
The results came in front of nearly sold out crowds in the Barra Olympic Park, with the International Paralympic Committee confirming 140,000 spectators today, with over 167,000 expected tomorrow – a number that if reached, will break the record attendance numbers at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The Rio locals continue to embrace the Paralympics in huge numbers and with great passion and enthusiasm, seemingly unified as a city in shaking off negative global perceptions coming into the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. The New Zealand Paralympic Team continues to enjoy the hospitality of the Brazilians, finding them endlessly cheerful and accommodating, as the Team focus on performance.
Sophie Pascoe (23) was first off the blocks, winning SILVER in the Women’s 50m Freestyle S10 in a personal best time that forced her Canadian rival to break the World Record to beat her. Fittingly, it was Pascoe who took the honour of winning New Zealand’s 200th Paralympic medal, with the first won 48 years ago at the Tel Aviv 1968 Paralympic Games by New Zealand’s first Paralympian, Eve Rimmer, in Para-Athletics. Pascoe went into the final having qualified second fastest behind the eventual gold medal winner and finished the race in 27.72sec, just 0.75sec behind the World Record.
Just 20 minutes after that, Mary Fisher smashed her competitors to win a GOLD and set a new World Record in the in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S11. Fisher was dominant from the beginning and led at the 50m mark, but it was after the split that she really tore away from her rivals to touch the wall in 1:17.96m, winning by over two seconds. This caused the crowd to leap to their feet with a huge roar.
Fisher said: “I am so, so happy and thankful to all the people that have supported me within sport and all the people who make me a better person outside of sport. I am one person in the lane, but it feels like every kiwi and all the people around the world who have been supporting me and the New Zealand Team are there too – it’s all for them.“
She continues: “Brazil is such an interesting place. We are in this little bubble in the Village but when you come to the pool deck and you’re being announced into a final and tonight, to be in lane 4 because I had set the fastest time this morning – it’s such a special feeling, that you can’t describe in words. You’ve got this big venue with 15,500 people and they are all going nuts, so the noise factor is amazing and you can feel the reverberations of how big the place is – it feels like you have this huge current swimming behind you. The last 25m wasn’t very pretty of my race but we made it in the end!“
The final New Zealand swimmer in action this morning was Jesse Reynolds who finished 5th in a time of 4:35.04 in the Men’s 400m Freestyle S9 heat and did not qualify for the final.
In between Pascoe and Fisher, across the city in the Olympic Stadium, Paralympic debutant, Wellingtonian Rory McSweeney (30) won a BRONZE in the Men’s Javelin F44, the first Paralympic medal for New Zealand in Javelin since the gold won by Peter Martin at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games. McSweeney threw 54.99m, just over 2cm behind the World Record gold medal throw.
McSweeney said: “This was an amazing night. I am over the moon; it really hasn’t sunk in! I was in the bronze medal position for a while but had other competitors still to throw, so it was pretty nerve-wracking, I had to wait until the very end to know if I had won the bronze. It was a really hard competition and I have had a tough four weeks, with lots of niggles in the body, but I thought I could get out there and do the business. I wanted to celebrate, but you have to be respectful, there was a lot of heartbreak around me on the field. I can’t wait to get back to the Village and see my friends and family, who were all watching in the stands. By the way, the local crowd was absolutely pumping!“
Completing the exceptional night for the New Zealand Paralympic Games Team was “New Zealand blade runner“ Liam Malone. Malone won a SILVER in the Men’s 100m T44 in a time of 11.02, just over a tenth slower than his heat yesterday. That said, he ran the absolute race of his life in front of a very vocal crowd, beginning to accelerate at a phenomenal pace from 30m out and surging past the field from 5th to 2nd. Malone finished just behind London 2012 Paralympic Games legend, Jonnie Peacock, who won gold and equalled the Paralympic record of 10.81sec he set in yesterday’s heats.
Malone said: “Today was a super special day for me today as it is my Mum’s birthday. She passed away four years ago and I know she would be so proud. And my mates were in the stand and it is really special to have them here to support me.“
He continued: “I was aiming for gold but Jonnie Peacock is fast and he raced a great race. I was pleased my acceleration kicked in toward the end, as it always does.“
New Zealand’s final Para-Athletics athlete in action was 19-year-old debutant Jacob Phillips who finished 8th in the Men’s 100m T35 in a time of 14.14.
Also in action today were the two tandem pairings of Emma Foy & Laura Thompson and Amanda Cameron & Hannah van Kampen. Both tandems competed in the Women’s Kilo BVI.
Amanda Cameron and Hannah van Kampen (sighted pilot) produced a personal best time of 1:11.737, taking nearly one minute off their previous personal (correction from 1sec advised earlier). Cameron and Van Kampen finished in 6th place.
Cameron said: “The atmosphere in the velodrome was electric. It was so great to see our families up in the stand and cheering us on. It definitely made us go faster.“
van Kampen said: “We were really stoked with our race with nearly a second off our personal best. We just went into this with no expectations and saw this race as an opportunity to blow the cobwebs out and test our nerves before our 3km Pursuit on Sunday.“
They were followed by Emma Foy & Laura Thompson who flew around the track in a time of 1:10.187, finishing 4th despite the fact this is not their favoured event.
Foy said: “It went really well for us and we were happy with our time. It was a good chance to go through the whole process before our main event on Sunday. It was great having the crowd around today.“
Thompson said: “The velodrome was pumping today and we had families and friends here for both tandems. I have my mum and brother here, our own little support crew. We have never had that before at a pinnacle event so it is great. They are certainly very vocal.“
New Zealand’s final Para-Cyclist in action was debutant Byron Raubenheimer who finished 11h in the Men’s Kilo C4-5.
WHAT’S ON TOMORROW
Day Two has continued the exceptional start to the Games campaign by the New Zealand Paralympic Games Team, with Day Three promising to be equally exciting, with the following kiwis in action:
• Para-Cyclists: Kate Horan, Byron Raubenheimer
• Para-Shooters: Michael Johnson, Greg Reid
• Para-Swimmers: Sophie Pascoe, Mary Fisher, Hamish McLean
• Para-Athletics athletes: Caitlin Dore, Anna Grimaldi