Back in the stadium where she made her name back in 2012, Hannah Cockroft (coach: Jenni Banks) pushed to a memorable eighth world championship gold in a world record time of 17.18 (0.0) in the T34 100m at the opening session of the World Para Championships London 2017.
In fine form this season following record breaks over a multitude of distances, ‘Hurricane Hannah’ began motoring strongly at 40m before moving away from the rest of the field in superb fashion for another world record break in front of a rapturous home crowd.
Elated with the best possible start to her title defences, Cockroft said: “You know, I can’t even remember what was happening in the race. It’s all a bit of a blur. There were so many people who know your name and are supporting you in there. There was so much noise; it was incredible. I think I had forgotten what it was like – that is what we do this for; that’s why we work so hard.
“And the race….well, I don’t know. I got a world record, so that can’t be bad!”
Behind Cockroft, 16-year-old Kare Adenegan (Job King) pushed a fine race from lane two to claim silver in what was a red-hot race, with her pushing pace over the first 50m ensuring Cockroft had to work her very hardest to take the victory.
Reflecting on her 18.01 push and a silver medal in her first event of the championships, Adenegan said: “I was focusing on my own race and I knew that I’ve had a strong start and I had to keep it going. I couldn’t see anyone else around me and I was thinking ‘power it on, power it on’; I had to focus on what I needed to do.
“I was aware of Hannah coming back on me but I’m still quite young and getting a lot stronger. It was very close and that gives me confidence.”
Also in the race and moving through the field, Carly Tait (Banks) claimed a fine fifth place finish on her debut race in the London Stadium with a clocking of 19.58.
On the build-up and experience, Tait said: “To be honest, all day I’ve been building it up and building it up and I’ve been feeling really sick and nervous. But when I got to the stadium and heard the cheers and the crowd noise and everyone saying hello I took a few breaths and thought ‘I can do this’.
“I’d have liked a PB, but I’ve placed well and the adrenaline rush was incredible. That was the best ever.”
The F32 and F51 Club Throw saw mixed fortunes for the quartet of Britons involved. Competing in the F32 class, Gemma Prescott (Mike Wood) and Abbie Hunnisett (Anthony Hughes / Mark Hunnisett) faced stiff competition in a stacked field, while the F51 class featured Jo Butterfield (Philip Peat / Shona Malcolm) and Kylie Grimes (Peat).
In the F32 event, Prescott – a two-time Paralympic bronze medallist in the event – grew stronger with every throw in her first series; with an opening throw of 18.24m followed by 19.37m and 19.66m to see her take an early lead.
In her second series, which she entered sat in bronze position following a strong opening series by world record holder Maroura Ibrahmi of Tunisia, and multi-global medallist Mounia Gasmi of Algeria.
For Hunnisett an opening pair of throws tabling 13.18m and 15.02m, followed by a foul, were good for ninth at the break. In her second series, Prescott built on her lead with a series best of 19.97m in her fifth outing, meaning a wait was on her hands to see whether the distance would be good for a rostrum position.
Unfortunately for Hunnisett, three fouls in her second series left her settling for eighth place on a day where she just couldn’t find her finest form, with Prescott’s brilliant bronze – her first medal at a world championships – confirmed following the rest of the field being unable to better her fifth round best of 19.97m.
Evidently delighted with another global medal, Prescott commented: “”That was great; I just really enjoyed being out there. The crowd were incredible and it really brought back a lot of memories from 2012. I’ve been in here a couple of times since then, and, for me, this is just a really special place to come and compete.
“I would have liked to have thrown further, but it was about enjoying the experience and drinking in being out there. I’ve been around a while now and I really train hard, so this is really special.”
On her series, Hunnisett said: “I’m fairly happy with my performance today; there are always going to be days when you don’t quite reach the heights, but I’m happy with how I threw and I will hope for better in my next competition.
“It was great to be involved in a competition on home soil, and the local support really helped me today; it was an amazing experience to be a part of. “
In the F51 Club, reigning champion Jo Butterfield (Phil Peat / Shona Malcolm) endured mixed fortunes, with Kylie Grimes (Phil Peat) also attempting to break into the medals.
Butterfield’s mark of 22.54m saw her sat in bronze territory for the bulk of the competition, only for the USA’s Rachel Morrison to throw out to 22.92m with her sixth and final throw to snatch the podium place away.
Taking the experience in her stride, Butterfield commented: “I came to defend my title and that’s what I wanted to do but I’m happy with how I threw. I had a good series out there; I felt that they were good throws, and I was beaten on the day by better people.
“Honestly, they felt good. The first three throws I felt stoning the second three I was in a bit of pain, but that isn’t an excuse.”
On waiting to see how world record holder Rachel Morrison threw to see where the bronze medal would go, Butterfield added: “I did close my eyes a little bit; I couldn’t see exactly where they were landing and couldn’t gauge where they were landing.
“The last two looked good but I didn’t know for sure. When I knew that Rachael was the last one up I knew that she could easily throw a lot further and could have taken the gold medal, but the way these things work out can happen.”
For Grimes, an athlete who threw a significant personal best less than two weeks ago, the strength of the top four competitors showed on the day, with her best throw of 18.62m leaving her to claim fifth behind Butterfield in fourth.
“It wasn’t great. But you know, I just wanted to go in there tonight and enjoy it, and I did that,” said Grimes.
“In the second set of three throws, I felt my second throw [fifth throw overall] was really good. I was convinced it was over 19 metres but it wasn’t quite. Now I’ve got to keep finding ways of keeping loose in competition. I was a tiny bit slow and a tiny big sluggish at times tonight.”
The first Briton to take to the track at the championships, T12 sprint specialist Zac Shaw (Joe McDonnell) – an athlete doubling up in the 100m and 200m at these championships – fed off the backing of the superb British crowd as he took to the start line for the 100m.
Roared on after a clean break out of the blocks, the Cleethorpes athlete made the early running only to be chased down by Canada’s George Quarcoo in what became a thrilling finish. It was left to a dip on the line for Shaw to secure his spot in tomorrow morning’s semi-finals, with the winning time of 11.40 seeing him take victory and guarantee safe passage by a hundredth of a second.
Reflecting on the race, Shaw said: “At the back end of the race I tightened up a bit so not a perfect race but I won the heat so I don’t think you can ever be too upset about that and there are some things to work on for tomorrow.
“At 60m I thought I was going to pull away but that Canadian, fair play to him, he did push on a lot and I didn’t plan on doing it but I had to.”
On the reaction from the crowd upon his name being read aloud at the start-line, he added: “It was the proudest moment of my life to put on the GB shirt and be the first on the track at the World Championships in the stadium. That cheer was unbelievable. “
British Athletics medalists at the World Para Athletics Championships London 2017:
Hannah Cockroft – T34 100m
Kare Adenegan – T34 100m
Gemma Prescott – F32 Club Throw
Action from the World Para Athletics Championships resumes tomorrow at 10:00 – the timetable for the championships can be found here.