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‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius begins gold quest

September 2, 2012
LONDON: “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius yesterday begins his quest to retain his three Paralympic sprint titles but he could be eclipsed by a lightning-quick Irishman, as a controversial showdown beckoned in the pool.

The South African sprinter, who earned his nickname as he competes on carbon fibre prosthetics, lines up in the heats for the T44 200m in London, just weeks after becoming the first double-amputee to compete in the Olympics.

But while the 25-year-old has become a household name across the world, another defending Paralympic champion has staked his claim to be king of the track — and the new face of the competition.

Jason Smyth, of Ireland, blitzed the field in the T13 100m heat late on Friday, lowering the world record to 10.54secs and securing a place in the final on Saturday night, just before Pistorius begins his campaign.

Smyth, who is visually impaired and like Pistorius also runs in non-disabled races, trains in Florida with US sprint star Tyson Gay, who is the second-fastest man in history over the 100m behind Jamaica’s Usain Bolt.

“I’ve been based out there for the last three years so (I’m) pretty much doing exactly what those boys are doing, I’m part of the group,” he told reporters.

“I’ve come along a way, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve got quicker and quicker, so just to be in that environment with the second quickest man ever is great.”

Smyth has run 10.22secs — 0.27secs quicker that the non-disabled women’s 100m record set by Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988 — but his time was not recognised as it was not in an International Paralympic Committee-sanctioned event.

Meanwhile in the pool, US swim team poster girl Victoria Arlen, who holds the women’s S6 100m and 400m freestyle world record, eased through her heat in the longer race to face Britain’s defending Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds.

But a decision was still pending on whether she was in the correct category, raising fears that she could be stripped of gold if she were to win.

Arlen, 17, said she had tried not to let the controversy affect her and described the situation as “a rollercoaster”.

“But I have an incredible team USA that’s been supporting me. It comes with the sport, I’m just happy to swim and represent my country,” she added.

In the morning session of athletics at a packed Olympic Stadium, double amputee Richard Whitehead, of Britain, took gold in the men’s T42 200m in a new world record of 24.38secs.

Cuba took the gold and silver in the men’s F13 long jump, with Luis Felipe Gutierrez setting a new Paralympic record of 7.54m to win, while Angel Jimenez Cabeza jumping into second place with 7.14m.

Marouna Ibrahmi, of Tunisia, set a new world record in the women’s F31/32/51 club throw.

There were more world bests in the Velodrome, as Britain’s Neil Fachie and guide rider Barney Storey — husband of multiple Paralympic gold medallist Sarah — took the individual 1km time-trial for blind and visually-impaired riders.

Compatriot Jody Cundy, who reacted angrily to being disqualified in the C4/5 1km time-trial on Friday, secured a bronze medal ride-off in the C4 individual pursuit later on Saturday.

Romania’s Carol-Eduard Novak goes head-to-head for gold in that race with the Czech Republic’s Jiri Jezek.

Michael Gallagher was looking to add to Australia’s cycling medal tally in the equivalent C5 race, going against former British Royal Air Force weapons technician Jon-Allan Butterworth, who already has a silver in the C5 kilo.

At Greenwich Park, the first equestrian gold was secured in the grade II individual championship by Britain’s Natasha Baker on Cabral, with silver and bronze for German riders Britta Napel and Angelika Trabert.



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