Richard Whitehead (coach: Keith Antoine) and Jo Butterfield (Ian Mirfin/Shona Malcolm) continued the medal onslaught at the Paralympic Games winning gold, with Dave Henson (Roger Keller) claiming a well-deserved bronze.
Whitehead showed once again that age is just a number as the 40 year old stormed through the field in 23.39 to successfully defend the T42 200m title he won in London four years ago.
The sprinter, who holds all the major titles in his class said: “I have been asked that a couple of times (about what it’s like to retain his title). I think by the last 50m, I knew that I had won. What I said to the other guys is that it has been a tough ten or twelve years in sport with a lot of challenges and obstacles to overcome.
“I am fortunate enough to have such a great team around me. Whether it has been my coach Keith Antoine, who has been very loyal, or Tim Stevenson, Dave Jackson, British Athletics and Paula Dunn.
“I think it has been a tough time for the team but Paula has always been one that has supported me. I think for me it was about repaying that support. Also my friend Simon Mellows who died in 2005, someone who I always think about in those really quiet times when things are tough. Hopefully people will see what happened today and that anything is possible whether you are 14/15 like Ntando or 40 years old like me.”
Teammate Dave Henson (Roger Keller), who was making his Paralympic debut claimed a well-deserved bronze as the former army serviceman crossed the line in 24.74 to the roars of the British support in the Estadio Olimpico.
A surprised Henson commented: “Who’d have thought it? That fat lad from Southampton is a Paralympic bronze medallist, unbelievable. It was tight for the medal – I wasn’t convinced I’d got it but I carried that belief all the way with me during the race. I raced with heart and with the belief. I wasn’t going to leave here without a medal and I get to take a ‘Tom’ back to my daughter as well.
“It has definitely been a journey – there have been a hell of a lot of cold and wet mornings going training working with my coach (Roger Keller) with the sole purpose of getting here. Rio 2016 was always the aim but some people thought Tokyo was more realistic. With hard work and determination you can prove people wrong. I am here with a bronze medal around my neck, I mean they don’t give these out, you have to work hard for them.”
Butterfield meanwhile endured an interrupted build-up with a shoulder injury, but brushed away any pre-event concerns with a performance that saw her set a new world record in the club throw of 22.81m.
A jubilant Butterfield commented afterwards: “I smashed it. This is what you dream of. It is what I’ve prepared for; it is what me, Phil (Peat) and Shona (Malcolm) work hard for and we have done it. It still hasn’t quite sunk in, we were whisked straight to a medal ceremony but I cannot stop smiling. It was hard work to get here – it’s been six years since a life changing experience so to then be here on the biggest stage in the world; it feels amazing.
“My first throw was just short of the world record and that felt quite easy so I knew all I had to do was put a bit more speed into it. The second one, I held my breath because I’ve had a bit of a sore shoulder so I knew I didn’t necessarily have six big throws in me so I had to get it in straight away. I held my breath and went for speed then saw it fly.”
Kylie Grimes (Peat), who was playing wheelchair rugby at London 2012 showed that she will be a force to be reckoned with over the next cycle as she finished narrowly outside the medals in fourth place.
On the day of becoming a dad for the fourth time, David Weir (Jenny Archer) showed all his experience as the six-time Paralympic champion successfully navigated his way through to tomorrow’s T54 400m final. Going in lane eight, Weir stayed ahead of his competition from the gun and will be hoping to add to his medal collection.
Weir admitted afterwards: “I don’t like lane eight, I don’t like being chased down as I’m a better chaser. That’s a pretty good time for me – I didn’t go flat out which is good and it’s nice to get some racing under my belt. I felt good and comfortable.
“Obviously I was a bit gutted that I didn’t see him (Lenny being born), but there was nothing I could do. I had to come here and do what I do and that’s my sport. It’s an unfortunate situation and it did take me a lot of effort to get on the plane to be honest. I had a few phone calls to Emily (partner) to say should I come home but she’s a strong girl and made me get on that plane.”
Richard Chiassaro (Jenni Banks) will join Weir in the final as the 34 year old continued his remarkable year with a second place finish in the second heat and will now be looking to put himself in contention for the medals.
Polly Maton (Colin Baross) underlined her future potential crossing the line in fifth place in the T47 100m in a time of 13.09, while Olivia Breen (Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo/Julie Dodoo), who was seventh in the T38 100m finished 12th in the long jump with a best of 3.99m.
In the T34 100m, Ben Rowlings (Job King) failed to advance to the final after finishing fifth in his heat, which unfortunately wasn’t enough to see him go through.
Despite finishing the race in sixth place in the T53 400m on her second final at the Games, Sammi Kinghorn (Ian Mirfin) was later disqualified for a false start.
ParalympicsGB Athletics medal tally: (15)
Gold (7):
Libby Clegg & Chris Clarke – T11 100m
Sophie Hahn – T38 100m
Georgie Hermitage – T37 100m
Jonnie Peacock – T44 100m
Hannah Cockroft – T34 100m
Richard Whitehead – T42 200m
Jo Butterfield – T51 club throw
Silver (3):
Stef Reid – T44 long jump
Kare Adenegan – T34 100m
Toby Gold – T33 100m
Bronze (5):
Kadeena Cox – T38 100m
Gemma Prescott – F32 club throw
Sabrina Fortune – F20 shot put
Andrew Small – T33 100m
David Henson – T42 200m