Whitehead Secures Gold for Great Britain and Northern Ireland

24 Jan 2011

Richard Whitehead (coach: Liz Yelling) raced to an exceptional victory in this morning’s T42 200m at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand (21-30 January) in a new lifetime best and Championship Record of 25.88 (+1.8m/s).

Taking the Great Britain and Northern Ireland gold medal tally up to four, Whitehead executed a near-perfect performance to take the win against Clavel Kayitare of France (26.54) – the world leading athlete going into the race – and Japan’s Atsushi Yamamoto (26.92).

“200m is a hard distance for me but I took a good look at the other guys in the warm up area and I knew what I had to do,” he said. “My start is usually quite slow and I realised they were going to be quick off the blocks so I had to work hard to attack the bend before accelerating into the finish.”

“I was the underdog in the race and that’s how I like it,” he continued. “The opportunity was there and I really wanted to smash it. There’s such a great atmosphere within the team and everyone has really supported me, it’s been brilliant."

Opening the day’s proceedings in style, Beijing T36 100m silver medallist Ben Rushgrove (coach: Rob Ellchuk) raced to World Championships silver in a new PB and European Record of 12.25 (+1.5m/s).

Undoubtedly a Championships performer, the Bath-based athlete – who was beaten to gold by Hong Kong’s World Record holder and defending champion So Wa Wai in 12.17 - was buzzing: “I love this whole experience, I love coming away with the team and the nitty gritty of just getting down and dirty with it,” he said.

“I woke up at 6am and I knew I really wanted it today; I came out and gave it my best shot and to get a PB was brilliant. It went right down to the line because the guys got such a great start. Maybe the pressure got to me a bit, but that’s what major Championships are all about; there’s no greater occasion.”

Graeme Ballard (coach: Steve Thomas), who had flown to victory in his heat, finished a credible fifth in 12.57.

Completing a trio of podium finishes for the Aviva GB & NI team in the QE11 Stadium this morning, Hazel Robson (coach: Janice Kauffman), Bethy Woodward (coach: Jonas Dodoo), Katrina Hart (coach: Rob Ellchuk) and Jenny McLoughlin (coach: Darrell Maynard) took an excellent bronze in the women’s T35-38 4 x 100m relay (58.33).

McLoughlin, bitterly disappointed to fall in the late stages of yesterday’s T36 200m, was delighted to bring the baton home. “I really wanted to prove something,” she said. “When I got back last night I was desperate to get back out there and do well for the team; I’m pleased with that and it’s given me great confidence going into the 100m.”

Ian Jones (coach: John Dunne) finished seventh in the T44 200m final in 23.70 (+1.4m/s), a race won by South Africa’s T43 World Record holder and three times World and Paralympic champion over 100m, 200m and 400m, Oscar Pistorius in 21.80.