At the pass the half way mark of competition, Australia is now in position for a top ten finish at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships, with several more medal chances to come in the form of marathon champion Kurt Fearnley and sprinting sensation Evan O’Hanlon.
Today’s results saw Jessica Gallagher’s silver medal and the men’s T35-38 4x100m relay bronze add to Australia’s growing medal tally, which currently stands at five gold, four silver and four bronze.
“Today was a good day for Australia,” said Athletics Australia Team Leader, Rohan Short.
“We had Jess Gallagher win silver in the long jump and the men’s T36-38 4x100m relay was a cracking race. Tim Sullivan ran a magnificent last leg to force a photo finish to get the bronze medal.”
O’Hanlon shot out of the blocks to give Australia the lead heading into the first changeover before the South African runner shot ahead of Australia’s Brad Scott in the second leg.
Heading into the second bend, Scott and javelin thrower Wade McMahon’s changeover was seamless, before Paralympic veteran Tim Sullivan powered home from several paces behind to cross the line in 46.07.
Ukraine (45.99) came out on top winning gold while China (46.03) took out silver, with just 0.08 of a second between the three medal winners.
Other stand-out Australian performers of the week include the new long jump world record holder Kelly Cartwright, who won gold in both the T42 100m and F42 long jump for leg amputees, Evan O’Hanlon, who blitzed the field to win gold in the T38 100m and 200m for athletes with cerebral palsy and wheelchair racer Richard Colman, who powered home for gold in the T53 800m.
“Both our more established athletes and newcomers have performed well here in Christchurch which has been pleasing,” said Short.
China currently leads the competition medal tally, followed by Russia in second and Great Britain close behind in third.
In the years following the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games, the Australian athletics team has been unable to retain its number one world standing, dropping slightly from the top of the table in Sydney to second in Athens and Beijing.
For Short, several contributing factors, including the international growth of Paralympic sport, have impacted on Australia’s results in Christchurch.
“These World Championships have highlighted how far the level of competition has matured since the last World Championships in 2006 and the Paralympics in 2008,” said Short.
“Medals are no longer concentrated on the major sporting countries like China, the United States and Australia. Instead now we’re seeing medals spread across a number of countries. On day one alone, of the 22 medal events, 17 countries won gold.
“These Championships have also shown our youth. After Beijing a number of senior athletes retired so what we have now are 16 new faces on the team competing at their first international competition.”
Fresh off victory at the Oz Day 10km in Sydney, Paralympic and world champion Kurt Fearnley is looking to retain his hold on the marathon, when he races on Sunday in what is shaping up to be a fierce battle for the finish line.
Fearnley, who won the marathon at the Beijing Paralympic Games will face British rival David Weir, who tonight won his third gold medal of the championships, as well as Switzerland’s Marcel Hug, who has one gold and three silver world championships medals to his name.
Evan O’Hanlon will search for gold number three in the T38 400m while Beijing Paralympian Madeleine Hogan is ready for action in the F46 javelin, and 16-year-old Rachael Dodds is set to take on her world record in the T35 200m.
Watch the latest Australian action by visiting the Australian Paralympic Committee’s YouTube Channel.