Zhou helps China set the pace in Para athletics race

Algerian Abdellatif Baka wins a dramatic tussle in the men’s 1,500m T13 to clinch his first Paralympic title on eventful day at Olympic Stadium. 11 Sep 2016 By IPC

China’s Hongzhuan Zhou boosted her country’s place at the top of the Rio 2016 Para athletics medals table as she retained the women’s 400m T53 title she won four years ago in world-record time on Sunday (11 September).

World silver medallist at Doha 2015 behind Australia’s Angie Ballard, Zhou (54.43) made it back to the top of the podium as she destroyed the field in the final 100m, knocking 0.26 seconds off Ballard’s mark set in June this year.

“I am very happy and excited to win this medal at the Paralympics. I trained a lot but I did not expect to win,” said Zhou.

Commenting on the strength of the Chinese Para athletes, who have so far won a total of 23 track and field medals, including nine golds, she added: “We are all strong athletes training and competing between us. So we are always improving our level.”

Ballard (55.28), who missed out on gold at the last four Paralympic Games, won bronze as the USA’s Chelsea McClammer (55.13) came through in the final 20m to steal silver.

The final of the men’s 1,500m T13 was full of drama but it didn’t stop Algeria’s world silver medallist Abdellatif Baka (3:48.29) as he set a new world record to clinch his first Paralympic title.

Brazilian duo Yeltsin Jacques and Julio Cesar Agripino dos Santos were in the running early on but, with 800m to go, Agripino dos Santos stumbled.

He managed to regain his footing but dropped back in the field, leaving Jacques to take up the lead.

However, the Brazilian was no match for his rivals on the final lap as Baka led the charge past with 300m to go.

The Algerian looked to have victory sewn up but a terrific late charge by Ethiopia’s Tamiru Demisse (3:48.49) meant a sprint finish to the line.

“It wasn't easy to get this gold medal,” admitted Baka, who held on for gold as Demise slowed just before the line. “I’ve been working one or two years non-stop and it’s been very, very hard for me,” said Baka. Kenyan Henry Kirwa (3:49.59) won bronze.

There were two world records in the field too.

Nigeria’s Lauritta Onye smashed her own world best with her first round effort in the shot put F40, throwing 7.83m. Her fourth round throw was significantly further – a massive 8.40m, and it was no surprise the 32-year-old cartwheeled with joy as the results were confirmed.

Silver went to Tunisia’s Rima Abdelli (7.37m) while Dutch thrower Lara Baars (7.12m) set a new European record for bronze.

Great Britain’s Jo Butterfield (22.81m) also extended her own world record mark as she won the club throw F51.

The 37-year-old world champion had already set a new world record this year when she won the European title in Grosseto, Italy, three months ago and she was on form again as she added six centimetres on to her previous best. Silver and bronze went to Ukraine’s Zoia Ovsii (22.21m) and the USA’s Cassie Mitchell (21.84m) respectively.

Back on the track, US star Tatyana McFadden won her first gold medal of Rio 2016 as she stormed to a convincing win in the women’s 400m T54.

The 27-year-old won silver in the 100m T54 on Friday (9 September) and still has five events to go as she takes on all distances from 100m through to the marathon, including the 4x400m T54 relay.

Victory never looked in doubt for the American as she powered round the final bend, extending her lead right up to the line.

“I love the 400m, it’s one of my favourite races, so no pressure,” said McFadden.

“Today I won with my heart. I ran for America. It’s September 11th so I ran for the folks back at home and thoughts and prayers for those affected. I honour my country today with a gold medal.

“I think the Brazilian fans helped. They are here to support us. That is the wonderful thing about Olympic and Paralympic Games – it is a community coming together.”

Silver went to McFadden’s US teammate and Sydney 2000 champion Cheri Madsen (54.50) and China’s Lihong Zou (54.70) won bronze.

More success followed for the US team as world champion and world record holder David Brown (10.99) took immediate control of the men’s 100m T11, speeding out of the blocks into an early lead.

The American, running with his guide Jerome Avery, held his form well and proved too good for his rivals as he took the win with a new Paralympic record ahead of Brazil’s Felipe Gomes (11.08) and Namibia’s Ananias Shikongo (11.11), who set a new African record.

“It’s overwhelming; I’m at a loss for words. It’s unbelievable, I’m still in shock,” said Brown shortly after.

“I’m a calm, cool, collected kind of a guy. I was out there on the warm-up track having some fun – I don’t do anything different than I do in practice. I just had to go out and get the job done and we did just that.

“Coming across the finish line that just confirmed to me that I am the best and now I have a medal to prove it.”

The USA made it a hat trick of gold medals as Deja Young (12.15) won the women’s 100m T47. Fastest in qualifying, the 20-year-old was up against a strong field including Cuba’s defending champion Yunidis Castillo.

But it was not to be for Castillo who looked to have suffered an injury as she pulled up before the half-way mark. Young powered on to the line and took her first Paralympic title to add to the gold medal she won at Doha 2015.

Poland’s Alicja Fiodorow (12.46) won silver and bronze went to Brazil’s Teresinha de Jesus Correia Santos (12.84).

The 200m T42 went to form as Great Britain’s reigning Paralympic champion Richard Whitehead (23.39) safely defended his title.

Whitehead, who at 40-years-old shows no sign of slowing down, tore down the home straight to take gold as South Africa’s young star, 14-year-old Ntando Mahlangu (23.77), came through for silver. Great Britain’s Dave Henson (24.74) drove hard to the line and was awarded with a bronze medal.

China’s Junfei Chen collected her country’s final medal of the night – gold in the long jump T38. The 24-year-old’s second round leap of 4.77m sealed the win as Australia’s Taylor Doyle (4.62m) and Poland’s Anna Trener-Wierciak (4.53m) won bronze.