Great Britain’s Georgina Hermitage obliterated her own world record as she clinched gold on the track at the IPC Athletics European Championships in Grosseto, Italy on Monday (13 June).
The 27-year-old T37 sprinter was up against Russia’s T38 world champion Margarita Goncharova in the women’s 400m T38.
Both Para athletes raced home in world record time in their respective classes – but it was a spectacular win for the Briton who knocked more than one second off her previous best.
It was Goncharova who started strongly, but with 100m to go the Russian appeared to tire and was unable to respond as Hermitage held her form and powered past to the line.
“It was always going to be a hard race in a mixed classification race – I was very aware I would be running it blind with Goncharova on the inside, so when she overtook me on the back straight I did panic for a second but I tried to remember what to do.
“Coming into the home straight I had that little bit more left and it all paid off and worked in the end,” said Hermitage, who stopped the clock at 1:00.63.
“The 400m is what made me come into Paralympic sport. It is the one that really matters to me. It is not just about speed but about heart, courage and determination. So to come out on top today has put me in a good place going forward to Rio,” she added.
Goncharova meanwhile took 0.06 seconds off the world mark she set at Doha 2015, clocking 1:02.12. There was little time to reflect though with her long jump T38 title to defend – which she did with ease, leaping a championship record 5.11m – 11 centimetres shy of the world record mark she set last year.
Russia’s Natalia Kocherova is going for a remarkable six European titles this week, and the 26-year-old racer is already half way there, winning the 400m T54 in a championship record time of 55.83 to add to the 200m and 5,000m titles already to her name.
“I feel fantastic, I really like the stadium and the track here in Grosseto. I am very happy because I broke my own personal record by one second,” said Kocherova.
Fellow Russians Vitalii Gritsenko and Aleksandr Iaremchuk also set championship records – Gritsenko won the men’s 400m T53 final clocking 49.01, while Iaremchuk sped past Bulgarian Hristiyan Stoyanov off the final bend to take the tape in the men’s 1,500m T46 in 4:02.69.
Frenchman Timothee Adolphe held his form well as he stormed home in a championship record 23.19 to take the win in the men’s 200m T11 - adding to the 100m title he won on Saturday.
There were second wins - and more championship records too - for Finland’s Henry Manni and Great Britain’s David Weir.
Manni pushed hard to the line to win the 100m T34 in 15.86, while Weir added the 400m T54 title to his win over 5,000m the previous day clocking 46.10 over one lap with his teammate Richard Chiassaro (46.46) finishing in second place. Briton Toby Gold struck gold in the men’s 100m T33, clocking 17.64.
Aleksei Kotlov secured his second gold of the Championships with a win in the 200m T47, clocking 22.15 – a new championship record.
His teammate Dmitrii Safronov kicked off his quest for double European gold with a straightforward win in the men’s 200m T35, the double world champion’s trademark long stride carrying him to the line in 26.06.
Russia’s multiple Paralympic and world champion Evgenii Shvetsov meanwhile began his Grosseto 2016 title hunt with a win in the 400m T36. The 28-year-old started strongly and held on down the home straight, crossing the line in 55.47.
Joanna Mazur looked to be on track for her second gold of the Championships as she sprinted to the line in the women’s 400m T12, having won the 200m on Saturday.
But the Polish Para athlete looked to be in trouble with less than 30m to go, stumbling as Spain’s Melani Berges Gamez came through on the inside to take the gold with a new personal best of 58.09.
“I trained a lot after Doha in 2015, I’ve worked very much until now. That’s why I managed to improve my new personal record, lowering it by four seconds,” said Berges Gamez.
Poland’s Alicja Fiodorow was the highest placed European in last year’s 200m T47 World Championship final where she finished fourth, and she proved too good for her rivals in Grosseto, setting a championship record 25.83 to take the gold.
Germany’s Irmgard Bensusan also proved too good for her competitors in the women’s 200m T44, improving on her silver medal from Swansea 2014 with gold this time around in 27.70.
Gold in the women’s 400m T53 went to Turkey’s Hamide Kurt in 56.45, a new championship record, while Austria picked up their first win in the Carlo Zecchini Stadium courtesy of Thomas Geierspichler who set a championship record in the men’s 400m T52 (1:01.61).
Championship records continued to fall in the field too - Russia’s world bronze medallist Alexander Elmin threw 14.06m to win the men’s shot put F35, while his compatriot Chermen Kobesov leapt 6.15m to seal gold in the long jump T37 and Serbia’s world silver medallist Milos Zaric won the javelin F55 with a best of 30.86m.
Ireland secured their second gold medal in the field as world bronze medallist Orla Barry clinched gold in the discus F57 – and the 26-year-old was suitably pleased.
“I’m delighted to throw a PB, I knew I could do it, there was a good throw in me this week but I didn’t really expect a PB out of it so I’m happy with it,” said Barry.
“I feel good for Rio. We’ll go home now and we’ll pull our plans together for the next couple of weeks and hopefully in Rio I can improve on what I did here today.”
Montenegro’s Radmilo Baranin won the men’s javelin F34 with 20.17m; Poland’s Renata Sliwinska (F40) threw 6.32m (672 points) to top the podium in the shot put F40/41 and Russia’s Anna Kulinich-Sorokina (F12) won the javelin F11-13 with a best of 40.33m.
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