“I can say I’m quite happy with the time. You know, I’m always trying to improve and expecting a bit more but I am happy for it.”
Great Britain’s Hannah Cockroft gave the home fans plenty to cheer about as she claimed gold out on the track in world record time on the first day of competition (Friday 14 July) at the World Para Athletics Championships in London.
Quick out of the blocks, Cockroft never really looked in doubt despite an early challenge by her teammate Kare Adenegan.
The reigning Paralympic and world champion was well clear by the end of the race as she crossed the line in 17.18 seconds, taking 0.1 seconds off her own world record.
“I can say I’m quite happy with the time. You know, I’m always trying to improve and expecting a bit more but I am happy for it,” said Cockroft.
“When I entered the stadium and the people were shouting my name, I had to hold back a bit, it was a bit overwhelming and I needed to stay back and focus. With this atmosphere, this is the best championship I have even been to. London is just spoiling us, it was absolutely fantastic,” added the 24-year-old, who still has the 400m and 800m T34 to come.
Adenegan (18.01) held on for second place as the USA’s Alexa Halko (18.43) took bronze.
It was a hat-trick of firsts in the London Stadium for Australia’s Cameron Crombie – the 31-year-old produced the first world record of London 2017 in the men’s shot put F38. He also picked up the first gold medal of the day – at his first ever World Championships.
The former Para rower finished over a metre clear of the field thanks to his second-round effort of 15.95m – adding 37cm to the previous mark set back in 2011.
“It’s a very special moment for me today, not only because I became the first champion here and also with a world record but also because these are my first World Championships,” explained Crombie who added more than a metre to his personal best.
“I didn’t hope for more. I have got a few friends here supporting me also with my family. They are doing the Euro holiday just to see me competing. Now, there are at least nine of them in the crowd and even more are coming on Saturday, when I compete in the javelin throw.”
Iran’s Javad Hardani (14.13m) and Swede Victor Svanesohn (13.63m) took silver and bronze respectively.
Morocco’s Sanaa Benhama (4:40.40) showed just why she arrived in London as the world ranked number one in the women’s 1,500m T13, clinching gold in a terrific sprint finish to get the better of defending champion Somaya Bousaid (4:40.89) of Tunisia.
Bousaid, who won gold at Rio 2016, led for much of the race and picked up the pace with one lap to go. But she couldn’t shake off Benhama who hung on round the final bend before powering past with just over 50m left. Tunisia’s Najah Chouaya (4:46.16) took bronze.
A terrific start by Finland’s Leo-Pekka Tahti (13.95) in the men’s 100m T54 proved invaluable as he suffered problems with his chair out in front just after the halfway mark. The five-time Paralympic champion briefly stopped pushing and lost his rhythm but he was still able to cross the line to reclaim the world title he won in 2013.
“My strap broke at 60m but up to then my race was wonderful,” explained Tahti. “I thought ‘Oh no, this can’t be happening to me now in a World Championship final.’ To win another World Championships is so important to me, especially as I’ve had some problems this summer with my elbow.
“The first 60m is always the best part of my race and today it was excellent. But then I had the problems with my chair. It was amazing that I still beat the Chinese guy ((Liu Yang) and I still went under 14 seconds. My only disappointment is that I didn’t break my world record, but I have other competitions to come, so let’s see.”
Yang took the silver (14.07) with the Dutch racer Kenny van Weeghel (14.25) picking up the bronze.
Brazil’s Thiago Paulino threw a season’s best 14.31m to seal gold in the men’s shot put F57. The 31-year-old saw off the Paralympic gold and silver medallists, China’s Guoshan Wu (13.91m) and Poland’s Janusz Rokicki (13.76m), to claim his first major title.
“I felt the gold medal was mine when I saw the Polish athlete (Rokicki) was not having a good day. The others were all having poor days and I wasn’t at my best but it was enough to win gold.
“I want to thank my family so much. My wife is pregnant right now and this child is going to be born to a father who’s a world champion. My first child was born when I won my first competition and now it’s happened again.”
Algeria’s Mounia Gasmi turned the tables on Doha 2015 champion Maroua Ibrahmi to claim gold in the women’s club throw F32. Silver medallist two years ago, Gasmi threw 25.07m to take the top spot. Ibrahmi (24.52m) had to settle for second place while Great Britain’s Gemma Prescott (19.97m) took bronze.
There was upset in the women’s club throw F51 as Ukrainian Zoia Ovsii threw a massive 23.74m to take gold ahead of pre-event favourites Jo Butterfield, Great Britain’s Paralympic and world champion, and world record holder Rachael Morrison of the USA. Cassie Mitchell (23.37m) took silver ahead of Morrison (22.92m) who clinched bronze with the final throw of the competition.
India secured their first medal of the World Championships thanks to Sundar Singh Gurjar, who took gold in the men’s javelin F46 with a personal best 60.36m. Sri Lanka’s Dinesh Priyantha Herath (57.93m) won silver while Doha 2015 champion Chunliang Guo (56.14m) had to settle for bronze.
“I wasn’t worried about the defending champion because I knew all I had to do was my best and not think about the competition. If he had thrown better I would have gone a lot further as well,” said Gurjar.
The World Para Athletics Championships will run through to 23 July. More than 1,150 athletes from 90 countries are competing in 202 medal events.
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