“I still can’t believe it, I can’t say how happy I am. I’m really, really, really happy,”
Swiss ‘Silver Bullet’ Marcel Hug finally grabbed the Paralympic gold medal he has been waiting for, winning the 800m T54 at Rio 2016 on Thursday (15 September) as world records continued to fall.
The 30-year-old seven-time world champion, who has won four silver and two bronze medals across four Paralympic Games, looked determined to finally top the podium as he immediately took to the lead, and he held on over the two laps, speeding home to take gold in 1:33.76.
“I still can’t believe it, I can’t say how happy I am. I’m really, really, really happy,” said Hug, who admitted that the pressure was on after winning 1,500m and 5,000m silver earlier in the Games.
“There was more pressure definitely, but also more motivation. I hope I can keep on winning. I’m 30-years-old, it’s a good age and I’m very motivated to continue now with this gold in my bag.
“It feels good,” added Hug, who admitted that winning gold felt like a weight off his shoulders. “It was high pressure that I could make it. Now I have two days to relax and enjoy my time before I focus again on the marathon.”
Thailand’s Saichon Konjen (1:34.74) won silver as Korea’s Gyu Dae Kim took bronze. London 2012 champion David Weir of Great Britain finished in sixth place, and admitted that was his last race on the track.
"That was my decision before I came out here. I want to retire at the London Marathon next year. Give it one more winter's training and then bail out where I started,” said the four-time Paralympic champion.
There was a tremendous finish to the men’s 400m T13 as Morocco’s Mohamed Amguoun (47.15) and Namibia’s Johannes Nambala (47.21) both threw themselves over the line in a battle for gold.
Nambala was leading down the home straight but a terrific last 50m by the Moroccan saw him dip over the line in world record time.
The 27-year-old took 0.68 seconds off the mark he set at last year’s World Championships as he improved on his bronze medal from four years ago. Nambala took silver as Algeria’s Mohamed Hamoumou (48.04) won bronze.
New Zealander Liam Malone picked up his second gold of Rio 2016 as he won the men’s 400m T44.
The 22-year-old T43 sprinter was quickly off at the gun and coming off the final bend it looked like he might have pushed too hard too soon as the USA’s Hunter Woodhall raced into a marginal lead.
But Malone, who won the 200m T44 on Monday (12 September), found another gear as he sprinted home in a new Games record. Germany’s world champion David Behre (46.23) came through for silver as Woodhall (46.70) clinched bronze.
There was a world record too for Greek T44 sprinter Michail Seitis, who clocked 49.66, lowering US sprinter David Prince’s previous mark by 0.21 seconds.
The USA’s Ray Martin (3:40.63) clinched his second gold – and third medal – of Rio 2016 as he took the win in the men’s 1,500m T52.
The reigning world champion set off at lightning pace as Japan’s Tomoki Sato (3:41.70) worked hard to close the gap, and the two were left well clear of the field in the battle for gold. Sato took to the front with less than two laps remaining but the American sprinted past round the final bend, setting a new Paralympic record in the process.
"It feels amazing that I can continue my success from London 2012,” said Martin, who won four golds four years ago.
“This was my last event so I wanted to go out with a bang so I'm glad that I crossed the line first. I've got to go back to university, I leave tomorrow,” added the 22-year-old, who is studying kinesiology.
Sato was later disqualified as silver went to Thailand’s Pichaya Kurattanasiri (3:53.96) and bronze to Japan’s Hirokazu Ueyonabaru (3:54.04).
Kenya’s Henry Kirwa (14:17.32) comfortably sped past early leader and defending Moroccan champion El Amin Chentouf (14:21.04) to win the men’s 5,000m T13, adding to the 1,500m T13 bronze he won four days previously.
Kirwa had sat on Chentouf’s shoulder for the entire race as the field stretched out behind them, and it looked just a matter of time before he made his move. That moment came with 100m to go, and Chentouf was unable to respond as he crossed the line for silver with Tunisia’s Bilel Aloui (14:33.33) taking bronze in a new T13 world record.
"I planned this four years ago,” said Kirwa. “I went home (after London 2012) and said 'Let me improve my tactics'. Today my plan worked."
"I never let him (Chentouf) go far because I know in finishing I am very tough. I remained behind all the time. The guy is very tough and I thought he maybe could go faster so I stayed close.”
Croatia’s Mikela Ristoski (5.79m) improved on her bronze medal from four years ago to win the women’s long jump T20 as Poland’s world champion Karolina Kucharczyk (5.55m), winner at London 2012, had to settle for silver. Bronze went to Malaysia’s Siti Noor Radiah Ismail (5.20m).
South Africa’s Reinhardt Hamman led from the opening round of the men’s javelin T38, sealing gold with his final throw of 50.96m – a new African record -to finish more than one metre clear of the field.
The 26-year-old quit the sport in 2008 when he failed to make the South African team for Beijing 2008, and he admitted that returning to elite level was challenging – but worth it.
"It has been 13 years of hard work. Back then it was pure disappointment. I was throwing at the top of my game but there was other background stuff so I didn't make the team.
"It was a matter of getting back into shape. I was in the gym seven days a week, I did cardio for three hours a day and that was it.
"I lost 20 kilos in like four months and I have been pushing ever since. To make Rio and to be champion is a lot of hard work. Everything went into this."
Colombia’s Luis Lucumi Villegas (49.19m) and Iran’s Javad Hardani (48.46m) completed the podium.
Algeria’s Nassima Saifi came out on top to hold on to the discus F57 she won at London 2012, throwing 33.33m to take gold ahead of Ireland’s Orla Barry (30.06m) and Nigeria’s Eucharia Iyiazi (27.54m).
Cuba’s Omara Durand lay down her marker in the heats of the women’s 400m T12 as she set a new world record to take a further 0.15 seconds off her world title winning time from last year’s World Championships. The 24-year-old is on track for a hat trick of sprint golds at Rio 2016.