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London 2012

Khrul and Boki set further records

Ukraine’s Oksana Kruhl and Belarus’ Ihar Boki set more world records on the Day 9 morning session at the Aquatics Centre.

Ikar Boki competing in the men's 100m freestyle S13 heat on day 4 of the London 2012 Paralympic Games swimming competition. Ikar Boki competing in the men's 100m freestyle S13 heat on day 4 of the London 2012 Paralympic Games swimming competition. © • Getty Images

“Regardless of the outcome, we are all happy to be together, being in London and enjoying the experience."

In the penultimate morning session of swimming, the athletes certainly did not disappoint with a further two world records being set by Oksana Khrul and Ihar Boki.

Khrul of Ukraine enchanted the Aquatics Centre with the first world record of the day, as she stormed the women’s 50m butterfly S6 in 36.96 and nearly two seconds ahead of her closest competitor Lu Dong of China.

The second came from Belarus’ Boki, who has won an incredible five medals already in London including four golds, as he stormed to a qualifying victory in the men’s 200m individual medley SM13 in 2:09.89.

Bradley Snyder is looking to mark the one-year anniversary since the accident that caused his blindness with a gold medal in the men’s 400m freestyle S11, after qualifying 14 seconds ahead of his closest rival with a time of 4:33.70.

Speaking about this momentous occasion, the American said: "It's not a poor anniversary and I'm really looking forward to celebrating how far me and my family have been able to come over the past year.

"I'll have a lot of friends and family (his parents and siblings, as well US Navy friends) in the stands tonight. It's a special night for all of us and we are going to look at this evening as a celebration, a celebration of conquest if you like.

“Regardless of the outcome, we are all happy to be together, being in London and enjoying the experience."

A double breaking of the Paralympic record ensued in the women’s 400m freestyle S11, as Cecilia Camellini raced to victory in her heat, before being pushed into third by Amber Thomas and Daniela Schulte, with the latter claiming the new record in 5:11.32.

Roy Perkins kept up the quest to retain his men’s 50m butterfly S5 gold medal from Beijing by qualifying in a Paralympic record of 34.33, holding off Brazilian dynamo Daniel Dias in second.

The day’s action started with Matthew Cowdrey once again expressing his dominance on the pool. The Australian record-holder qualified fastest in the men’s 100m freestyle S9 in 56.58.

South Africa’s Natalie Du Toit, competing in her final event before her impending retirement following these games, qualified fastest in a strong field in the women’s 100m freestyle S9, edging out Australia’s Ellie Cole into second in 1:02.95.

After the race, the South African discussed her sadness at leaving the sport but appreciates the opportunity she has had.

"I'm excited because it's been a long week, a long 10 days. I'm a bit sad, too, but the next couple of months I'll be busy with sponsors and those people that have really helped me along the way. They are really the ones who have kept me going, otherwise I think I would have gone out of the sport long ago," she said.

"I think I should be able to suppress it, but there is a bit of sadness. It's been many years of my life; it has taught me a lot of lessons. Travelling the world has been an eye-opener. It's always going to be sad leaving the sport."

Qing Xu set about the pursuit for a third gold medal in perfect style. The swimmer once again brushed away his competition to qualify fastest in the men’s 50m butterfly S6.

Elsewhere, there were good qualifying swims for Yang Yang in the men’s 50m freestyle, Sarah Louise Rung in the women’s 50m butterfly S5, Darya Stukalova in the women’s 50m freestyle and Valeria Grand-Maison in the women’s 200m individual medley SM13.

Take nothing for granted

US Navy hero Bradley Snyder, who lost his vision one year ago today (7 September), has already won Paralympic gold in London.

© •

“I am not buried in Arlington. I am here in London competing, so I get lots of motivation from that.”

The seventh of September holds little importance to many people, but to former US Navy hero Bradley Snyder, it marks the anniversary of his tragic accident in Afghanistan when he lost his eyesight.

The Paralympic Games are full of incredible stories of the will-power of humans who not only beat adversity, but laugh in its face.

But, as Brad told his own life-changing tale to reporters - blissfully unaware of the faces staring in astonishment back at him - it was hard not to be simply amazed.

Eyesight is something we all take for granted.

It gifts us the ability to navigate our way through the world in front of us, as step-by-step we see life’s beautiful things along the way.

A year ago today (7 September), Snyder was courageously helping another injured soldier to safety when he took what were to be his last steps of vision onto a buried explosive.

As his story continued, it become so quickly apparent that swimmer knew blindness would not change his gritty attitude and stop him succeeding in life.

“I remember the sound of the blast and then I remember looking as I could see out of my left eye originally that I had both my legs and both my arms. While I was in shock and scared of the extent of the damage, there was a whole bunch of optimism that I looked down and I was largely OK,” said the former US Naval Diver.

It is quite astonishing to have such levels of sanguinity in a moment so life-defining, but as Snyder’s infectious positivity rapidly transferred to those listening, it become swiftly apparent that it stems from his "lucky-to-be-alive” feeling.

“The way I got through it was gaining motivation by putting things into perspective,” he said. “I am still here and I have a lot of friends that didn’t make it back, a lot of friends who we boarded up to be buried in Arlington.

“I am not buried in Arlington. I am here in London competing, so I get lots of motivation from that.”

He isn’t just competing in London, far from it in fact, he is excelling – smiling at his restrictions that seem so redundant once he enters the pool.

Winning gold in the men’s 100m freestyle S11, and silver in the men’s 50m freestyle S11, Snyder has quickly rose to stardom back in the USA, including a feature on the front page of the Washington Post.

It has been quite a meteoric rise to fame for the 28-year-old, who captained his Naval Academy swim team before the accident, and he is looking to use this success to inspire those who walk in similar shoes to his own.

Although he lost his eyesight, his vision of legacy is clear.

“Another thing is that (my success) has become is a platform for inspiration. I have the ability to reach out to people and to get them to do things that they might not otherwise have done,” he said.

“I take a lot of solace in that and I really look forward to the opportunity to give back to the community I am part of and that is the wounded warrior community.

“I know there are a lot of guys and girls out there who are struggling with a tough hand and hopefully my success here at the Paralympics will reach out to them people and show there is a way forward and there is a way you can go out and get that relevance and success again.”

One hollowing sentiment from Snyder that echoed and imprinted on the minds of those lucky to be in attendance showed the toughness of the new-found situation that is forced upon him.

“Still to this day, every time I go to sleep I dream that I can still see, and I actually have dreams where in my mind I am blind but I can see and I am walking around thinking “this blindness thing really isn’t that hard and I can see just fine,” and then I wake up to darkness and that’s tough.”

Every day he starts with this obstacle as rudimentary tasks of yesteryear now becoming challenges that must be overcome – but overcome them he does.

And the fighting, determined personality that sparkles from Snyder as he comes to terms with the dichotomy of his new lifestyle as a Paralympic champion shows that America has a strong ambassador in its possession.

And his Paralympic journey has only just begun.

Bradley Snyder

Bradley Snyder

Bradley Snyder

Bradley Snyder

Van Koot looks to end Vergeer's streak

The women's wheelchair tennis singles final will be an all-Dutch affair, as No. 2 Aniek vank Koot aims to dethrone No. 1 Esther Vergeer.

Esther Vergeer - London 2012 Esther Vergeer in action at the London 2012 Paralympic Games © • Getty Images

“It'll be a new day and a new match."

When it comes to women’s singles wheelchair tennis, the cameras are always on Esther Vergeer, but fellow countrywomen, Aniek van Koot is looking to steal her limelight.

The final will be the fourth consecutive time that Vergeer has taken on another competitor from the Netherlands in a Paralympic final and Van Koot will be looking to break the mold and inflict the first loss on Vergeer since 2003.

“Of course everyone dreams of medals,” she said. “Each day is a new day, so who knows.”

Van Koot, who is a native of Winterswijk, has been in impressive form so far in the competition, as she has not dropped a set in London as yet.

She breezed through her opening round match against Australia’s Janel Manns and then replicated that form in her second round game, in which she knocked out Francisca Mardones of Chile.

Yui Kamiji gave her a tough match in the quarter-finals, but she overcame the Japanese player to meet Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock in the semi-finals.

Ellerbrock came out with some powerful shots in the first set, but the world No. 2 clinched that set and then dominated the second to book her final place.

Van Koot is overjoyed to have made the women’s single final in what his her Paralympic debut.

“It's amazing, there's such a relief that I have the opportunity to win a silver or a gold," she said.

“I just wanted to be a little mouse in the first round so I could look ahead and see what was happening later in the competition to calm my nerves."

Obviously she is aware of her opponent’s ability, but she believes that anything could happen.

“I've played her several times in a final in the past year,” she said, “It'll be a new day and a new match."

The Dutch star was born with her right leg shorter than her left, which resulted in her having her right leg amputated.

She took up the sport at the age of 10 and it did not take long for her to dominate at junior level, as she became world No. 1 at the age of 17 in 2007.

The 22-year old burst onto the senior scene in 2011 when she won her first Super Series title at the French Open and she was also a runner-up in all four Grand Slam double events with her partner Jiske Griffioen.

She could also meet Vergeer in the doubles final if her and Griffoen overcome Great British duo Luchy Shuker and Jordanne Whiley in their semi-final encounter.

Esther Vergeer - London 2012

Esther Vergeer - London 2012

China women's team going for gold on goalball finals day

China meets Japan and in the women’s golden match and Brazil faces Finland in the men's match which is likely to be a far closer affair.

Goalball Great Britain v Finland at London 2012. © • Getty

Brazil’s surprise result in the semi-finals – beating men’s world champions and Beijing silver medallists Lithuania – led to carnival-style noise from the team’s supporters.

Japan will face world champions China in the final of the women’s goalball after a dramatic afternoon which saw sudden death extra throws.

And in a surprise result, Brazil beat world champions and favourites Lithuania to take their place against Finland in the men’s final.

The Copper Box audience held their breath as Japan, who took a bronze medal at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, overcame Sweden.

They will now take on the favourites China, who are world champions and took the silver medal in Beijing 2008.

All six members of the teams had to take penalties, before sudden death meant glory for Masae Komiya against a heartbroken Sofia Naesstrom.

Komiya said: “We know how China plays because we had some practice matches with them. Although they are very strong, we will do our best."

Coach Naoki Eguro said the team had progressed since Beijing 2008.

He said: "Since we didn't do well in Beijing we practised a lot and we welcomed a new coach, Kyochi Ichikawa, because we wanted to have a stronger offence and that's why we made it through to the final.

"And if we win the final, the popularity of goalball in Japan will increase."

In the other women’s semi-final, Finland had seemed in confident mood, scoring a first minute goal, but went down 4-1 to a stronger Chinese side.

China's superiority told in the second half with Fengqing Chen scoring twice in six minutes and Lin Shan sealing her team's place in the final with a 20th-minute shot. They have only conceded five goals during the Games.

China lost out on the gold medal in Beijing 2008 to the US team, who they beat in the quarter-finals at these Games.

Coach Wand Ruixue said China had the right attitude. "In the next game we can't afford to make mistakes. There is a 50 per cent chance of victory."

Brazil’s surprise result – beating men’s world champions and Beijing silver medallists Lithuania – led to carnival-style noise from the team’s supporters.

Goal-scorer Romario Diego Marques said: “I am really emotional. It was very close but we came through in the end.”

Assistant coach Diego Concalves Colletes said he hoped this result would increase the sport’s profile before the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

On the team, he said: “Goalball is their lives. They live it, they are a spectacular team.”

The Finland men’s team made it to the final after a 2-0 win over Turkey, who were previously unbeaten.

Finland’s campaign for this competition began with three defeats but they have gone from strength to strength and will now hope to repeat their success of Atlanta 1996, when they took a gold medal. They also won silver in Barcelona in 1992.

Finland’s Erkki Minala said the team’s tactics for the final would be: “Defence, defence, defence – and score goals.”

Jarno Mattila scored both goals to take his tally to 13 for the tournament, making him Finland’s leading goal-scorer. But he was not daunted by the responsibility.

"I have a lot of experience and my shoulders are wide," he said.

Turkey’s Tekin Duzgun did not blame the pressure for the defeat.

He said: "We're never affected by pressure like this. There is no difference playing in front of 100,000 or 10," he said.

Sweden and Finland will now battle it out for a bronze medal in the women’s goalball, while Lithuania will take on Turkey in the men’s competition.

Competitors join forces for the team event

Favourites Hong Kong China fence young British in women's team opener at ExCeL on the fourth day of wheelchair fencing competition.

Chui Yee Yu - London 2012 Chui Yee Yu has won two gold medals in the individual events of wheelchair fencing in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. © • Getty Images

The competition starts at the quarter-final stage with Hong Kong taking on the host nation Great Britain.

Day 4 of the wheelchair fencing means the women’s team event, where category A or B athletes can be part of the team of 3.

Neither the women’s nor men’s team events featured in the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.

The competition starts at the quarter-final stage with Hong Kong taking on the host nation Great Britain. Hong Kong and China, who take on Russia, both have predictably strong teams.

Hong Kong has a wealth of experience. Chui Yee Yu already has 2 gold medals from the individual events. Yui Chong Chan was a Paralympic champion in Beijing 2008 and the 37 year-old Pui Shan Fan completes the Hong Kong side.

In comparison the Great Britain’s age average is just 18. Gabi Down, whose hero is former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder, Jamie Redknapp, is the youngest member at 14.

With such a young side it would be hard to see past Hong Kong, but Great Britain has the crowd roaring behind them and there have been up sets in this tournament already.

Great Britain’s neighbours from across the channel take on an extremely strong Hungarian side.

The French female athletes have found it tough so far and their next task doesn’t get any easier. Zsuzsanna Krajnyak won silver in the epee on Wednesday (5 September) and bronze in the foil, with Gyongyi Dani claiming silver in the category B event. Veronika Juhasz, who lost to Krajnyak in the foil bronze medal match, is the third and final member in a very strong Hungarian side.

Poland’s strengths are found in their category B foil bronze medallist, Marta Makowska, who also made the quarter-finals of the epee competition. The Pols face an equally matched opponent in Ukraine consisting of Alla Gorlina, Tetiana Pozniak and Iryna Lukianenko, whose ambition is to win gold at the Games.

Athletics picks up pace in Olympic Stadium

On the eighth day of Athletics competition, Pistorius will defend the T44 men's 400m crown and wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden goes after her third T54 gold medal in the women's 1500m.

Tatyana McFadden - London 2012 Tatyana McFadden celebrates the gold in the women's 800m T54 at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. © • Getty Images

In the men’s javelin throw F40, world record holder Ahmed Naas of Iraq is defending his title against rivals Mathias Mester of Germany and Chengcheng Fan of China.

The intensity continues to build on the athletics track as the high-profile Paralympic stars reunite to race for their place in the men’s 400m T44 final. The “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius faces the Brazilian, Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliviera, who beat him to the line in the 200m T44 final and forced him to collect this first silver medal.

USA sprinters Blake Leeper, Jim Bob Bizzell, Jarryd Wallace and David Prince are also in the mix and aiming for the final.

Leo Pekka Tahti of Finland returns to the Olympic Stadium after winning gold in the 100m T54 to target his next medal in the men’s 400m T54. Also at the starting line will be the Dutchman Kenny van Weeghal, who beat the Finnish track star to the top spot at the IPC Athletics European Championships in the Netherlands earlier this summer.

There are two women’s track events on Friday, both taking place in the evening session. In the women’s 100m T35 the world champion and current world record holder Liu Ping faces the top three in the world this year, Oxana Corso, Virginia McLachlan and Sophia Warner. Liu clinched gold in the 200m T35 on 31 August ahead of Corso and McLachlan who picked up silver and bronze respectively – can the Chinese athlete make it double gold here in London?

And in the women’s 1,500m T54, USA’s Tatyana McFadden has a chance to make it a golden hat trick, having already won the 400m and the 800m events here at the 2012 Games. The 23 year-old will have to watch out for the likes of 5,000m Paralympic champion Edith Wolf, world silver medallist Diane Roy, and China’s Zou Lihong, who was fastest in qualifying.

World record holder Tomoya Ito of Japan takes on USA’s Raymond Martin and Leonardo de Jesus Perez Juarez of Mexico in a 800m dash to the finish line for the men’s 800m T52 final. Ito hopes to go one better than his silver medal in the 400m T42 final earlier in the competition.

The morning session kicks off with the women’s discus F51/52/53 final, which is sure to provide plenty of excitement as it features a strong field including the F51 world record holder Catherine O’Neill, and Cassie Mitchell (F52) and Bochra Rzouga (F53), world ranked number one this year in their classifications.

In the men’s javelin throw F40, world record holder Ahmed Naas of Iraq is defending his title on Friday (7 September) morning against rivals Mathias Mester of Germany and Chengcheng Fan of China.

There’s a fantastic line up too in the final of the women’s long jump F13, where the top six in the world, headed up by the defending Paralympic champion and world ranked number one Ilse Hayes, do battle for gold in London. Anthi Karagianni from Greece will be hoping she can go one better than the silver she picked up behind Hayes in Beijing. Watch out too for world ranked number two, Johanna Pretorius, also from South Africa.

Semi-final contenders face vital games

While Australia and USA are already on the semi-finals, Great Britain faces Japan and Canada plays Sweden in vital games for all four teams involved on Day 3 of wheelchair rugby.

USA-England wheelchair rugby Steve Brown of England takes on the USA in wheelchair rugby at London 2012 © • Getty

Sweden and Canada teams will be going into the encounter knowing that they have a good chance of victory, but will need to play at the top of their game.

The final group matches take place on Friday (7 September) with a number of teams still fighting it out to qualify for the remaining semi-final places.

In group A, the USA have already guaranteed their place in the last four, but only one of either Japan or Great Britain can join them.

Great Britain coach Tom O’Connor admits his side will have to produce a strong performance to defeat the opposition.

He said: “I’m looking forward to playing against Japan - they are a really good, polished side. They won a medal at the world championships, so it’s going to be a massive challenge for us.

“We are still in the mix of reaching the semi-finals at the moment, and we’re in control of our own destiny which is good.”

Australia has also already booked their place into the last four, with only Sweden or Canada joining them from group B. Sweden and Canada play each other in the final group game.

Both teams will be going into the encounter knowing that they have a good chance of victory, but will need to play at the top of their game.

Sweden coach Benoit Labrecque used to coach Canada, adding a touch of extra spice to the encounter.

Canadian Mike Whitehead is familiar with Labrecque’s coaching techniques and is aware that his team need to be at the top of their game.

“We know that they will be prepared,” he said.

“Everyone knows that whoever comes out and wins takes all.”

Sweden captain Per-Arne Kulle believes his side have no individual player to fear ahead of the match.

He said: “They haven’t got any standout stars like Australia have with Riley Batt. We have had good close matches with Canada before and we have beaten them before.

“I think we have a really good chance. If we have a good day, we will win.”

Canadian veteran Garrett Hickling, however, disagrees and reckons that Sweden will need to up their game to defeat the aple-leafs.

“We have a squad full experience and a number of younger players that have a lot of speed and bite,” he said.

“Every game that they play, they learn and are getting better and better."

Australia takes on Belgium and the USA will face France in the remaining fixtures of the day. If Australia and the USA both win, they will avoid each other in the semi-final.