Eleven gold medals were decided on the first morning of competition at the IPC Athletics European Championships in Swansea, Wales, with impressive victories for young international debutants as well as some of the world’s most experienced para-athletes.
Russia’s Margarita Goncharova made the most of the warm and sunny conditions to add the European long jump F38 title to her World and Paralympic victories.
The 23-year-old recorded 4.86m in her opening jump to take what she will hope is the first of four gold medals in Swansea, with the 100m, 400m (T38) and 4x100m T35-38 still to come.
Meanwhile 18-year-old Samantha Kinghorn, making her senior debut in the GB & NI vest, gave fans in the stands plenty to cheer about as she took home Great Britain’s first gold medal of the championships in the women’s 400m T53.
“It's great winning a gold medal in front of a home crowd and my family have travelled down from Scotland to see me race - It's amazing,” she said. “The wind was behind me so I got a fast start. The lactic started to burn half-way but I managed to keep it going.
“I’ve got the 100m tonight so I’m going to go for a nap and try and recover the best that I can. I’ll try not to let the excitement get to me so I’ll go and watch some TV now to calm down.”
The first European record of the Championships came courtesy of the Czech Republic’s shot put F37 defending champion, Eve Berna.
The 28-year-old bettered the previous record she set at the Paralympic Games in London by just one centimetre, managing 11.01m in her penultimate throw to take the top spot on the podium.
"I'm very happy with a new personal best and the new record,” said Berna. "I set my previous record two years ago in London so it has taken me a little while to break it but I am very pleased."
Sweden’s Paralympic silver medallist Jeffrey Ige also successfully defended his European title from the Netherlands two years ago, winning the shot put F20 with a best of 15.49m, just one centimetre shy of the European record he managed in London.
“I'm really happy it was just one centimetre from my personal best. The conditions were good, it started to rain a little in the middle of the competition but my technique was good. That's my second European title and it always feels good to win.”
And Ukraine’s world champion Oleksandr Doroshenko - another European gold medallist from two years ago in Stadskanaal - added victory at Swansea 2014 to his list of achievements in the shot put F38 with a best of 14.43m.
"I am pleased to be able to get the first gold medal of these Championships for Ukraine, I hope it is not the last one,” he said. "It was a good competition and I am enjoying being in Swansea."
Indeed Doroshenko’s teammate Ruslan Katyshev soon provided Ukraine’s second gold medal with a win in a thrilling men’s long jump F11 competition. The 31-year-old saved his best til last, jumping 5.96m in the sixth and final round to take the gold ahead of early leader Martin Parejo Maza of Spain.
Earlier on in the morning Nantenin Keita of France secured the first victory on the Swansea university track, winning gold in the 400m T13 in 59.46 - a season’s best for the 29-year-old - although she remained disappointed with her time.
“It was difficult. I was enjoying it but it was my first race since the Paralympic Games. The time was bad,” said Keita. “The next race will be the World Championships next year and I hope it will be better for me than here.”
Gold in the men’s discus F12 went to the favourite Kim Lopez Gonzalez of Spain, who threw a personal best 48.75m to add to the world title he won in Lyon last year.
And a season’s best 24.62m - over eight metres clear of the field - was good enough for Germany’s Marianne Buggenhagen to add to her impressive medal collection with a win in the discus F55.
World javelin F12 champion Anna Sorokina secured Russia’s second gold medal of the opening session, leading from the first throw to win with a third round personal best of 40.67m, whilst Vladislav Slolov rounded off the morning session with another convincing win for Russia, winning the men’s club F20 with a personal best of 34.10.
In the morning’s heats, reigning World and Paralympic champion Mandy Francois-Elie of France made it safely through to this afternoon’s final of the women’s 100m T37, with Russia’s Anna Sapozhnikova leading the way in her semi-final. Defending European champion Maria Seifert of Germany also qualified comfortably.
In the semi-finals of the men’s 100m T12 Jason Smyth, making his debut in the T12 class, cruised through to this afternoon’s finals. Russia’s Paralympic 100m T12 champion Fedor Trikolich failed to progress, finishing second in his semi-final behind Joan Munar Martinez of Spain.
The final of the men’s 100m T34 is also set to provide plenty of excitement this afternoon with Finland’s Henri Manni leading the qualifiers in 16.69. Switzerland’s Mitic Bojan, who set a new European record of 15.85 in Grosseto earlier in the season, also goes through.
The live stream from Swansea 2014, together with videos on demand of individual races, are available to embed on websites in some territories via the IPC’s YouTube channel. For further information please contact IPC Digital Media Manager Natalia Dannenberg-Spreier.
In addition, HD quality broadcast footage from Swansea 2014 is available from the IPC’s Broadcast Manager Jose Manuel Dominguez.
Daily highlights will be available for digital channels via Omnisport, whilst individual races as video on demand can be embedded via Perform’s e-player