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Medals aplenty during first week of Paralympics

Pure athletic talent and stories of achievement over adversity have compelled viewers during the first week of the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

At the athletics, Australia has claimed 12 medals to sit equal seventh on the total medal tally.

With one gold, four silver and seven bronze medals, Australia heads into the second half of the Paralympic Games confident more success is set to come our way.

Leading the way on and off the track has been co-captain of the Australian Paralympic Team, Kurt Fearnley(NSW). At his fifth and final Paralympic Games, Fearnley took home bronze in the T54 5000m – his fourth successive medal in the event and 12th Paralympic medal overall. In a tactical race, the 35-year-old managed to edge his way into the top 3 in a captivating bunch sprint finish. Last night, Fearnley finished in 5th place in the T54 1500m. Fearnley’s final event comes on the final day of the Paralympic schedule as he goes for gold in the men’s marathon.

Winning the gold medal for Australia on day 5 of the Games was South Australian teenager Brayden Davidson. In a nail-biting F36 long jump contest for athletes with cerebral palsy, Davidson tied with his Brazilian opponent Rodrigo Parreira da Silva, with one centimetre being all that separated the three medallists. Walking away from his first Paralympic Games as champion, Davidson jumped an 11cm personal best, set the new Paralympic record for the event and captivated viewers with an emotional post-competition tribute to his grandparents.

Experienced campaigner Angela Ballard (NSW) moved her total Paralympic Games medal tally to seven with two bronze medal performances in the T53 100m and 400m. Co-captain of the Australian athletics team, Ballard is still to compete in the 800m and the 4x400m relay in Rio.

In what will be his last race in Australian Paralympic team colours, Evan O’Hanlon (ACT) won silver in the men’s T38 100m for athletes with cerebral palsy. Edged out for gold by Jianwen Hu (CHN), who clocked a world record of 10.74 to claim victory, O’Hanlon crossed the line in 10.98 (w: -0.3) to add a sixth medal to his existing Paralympic Games trophy cabinet of five golds.

Australia was caught up in the excitement of ‘The White Tiger’ as Chad Perris (ACT), the charming albino and visually impaired athlete took home Paralympic bronze in the T13 100m. Perris qualified for the round-of-eight with a then Australian record and personal best of 10.91 before improving that mark to 10.83 in the final to cross third behind the formidable Jason Smyth of Ireland.

On day 3 of the athletics, the lovable big man of the Paralympic team, Todd “The Hulk” Hodgetts (Tas) won bronze in the men’s F20 shot put. Whilst it may not have been the gold medal performance he was looking for, Hodgetts won many admirers with his positive outlook on the result.

On the same day, fellow Taswegian Deon Kenzie put in a gutsy performance in the men’s 1500m T38, holding on to win silver at his first Paralympic Games. Leading at the sound of the bell, the 20-year-old tried desperately to stick on to Abbes Saidi (TUN) but fell away at the last sprint.

Aussie long jumper Taylor Doyle (NSW) won Australia a silver medal in the F38 long jump with a leap of 4.62m. The performance marks an impressive improvement for Doyle who last year placed 5th in the same event at the 2015 IPC World Championships in Doha.

Queensland’s Carlee Beattie won bronze with a leap of 5.57m in the women’s F47 long jump competition. Beattie’s podium finish sits alongside the silver she won in London four years ago. Beattie was edged out for gold by friendly rival Anna Grimaldi (NZL), who jumped a personal best of 5.62m to win the Paralympic crown.

Rheed McCracken (Qld) backed up his London 2012 silver medal in the T36 wheelchair 100m with yet another second spot on the podium at Rio 2016. Edged out for gold by Walid Ktila (TUR), McCracken clocked 15.34 to launch his Rio 2016 campaign in style with his 800m event still to come.

Short statured athlete, Claire Keefer (Qld) set a new Oceania Record in the F41 shot put to collect the bronze medal for Australia. Both Keefer and Youssra Karim (MAR) threw 8.16m on their first attempts, but the medal was awarded to the Queenslander after countback.

Australia had a total of 22 top-five performances across the first week, which included:

  • After a race against time following ACL surgery, Maddy Hogan (Vic) finished fifth in the women’s F46 javelin.
  • Wheelchair racer Madison de Rozario (WA) came fifth in the final of the T54 1500m.
  • Jessee Wyatt (Vic) competing in the F33 shot put hit a best mark of 8.71m to place fourth.
  • Fellow Victorian Sam McIntosh also narrowly missed a medal, finishing fourth in the T52 wheelchair 100m.
  • At his first Games, Guy Henly (NSW) also placed fourth in the men’s discus throw F37 for athletes with cerebral palsy.
  • New South Wales wheelchair sprinter Rosemary Little (NSW) finished fifth in the women’s 100m T34 final.
  • In the throws, 19-year-old Rae Andersen (NSW) placed fifth in the women’s javelin F37 with a personal best.
  • Nicholas Hum (Vic) put himself within reach of the medals in the men’s long jump F20 final, but was edged out to finish fifth.
  • In the long jump F38, 16-year-old Games debutante Erin Cleaver (NSW) finished in fifth place.

Ones to watch:

Isis Holt (Vic) is looking for a Paralympic podium finish in both the final of the T35 100m tonight (23:54 AEST), and the 200m on Saturday.

The man who Kurt Fearnley says has the potential to be “the best in the world” and current 100m T34 silver medallist Rheed McCracken, races in the 800m tomorrow morning (6:50 AEST Thurs).

Sprinter Scott Reardon (ACT) is looking for revenge over his German arch-rival in the 100m T42 after the two shared a close finish in London 2012 (round 1, 01:28 AEST tonight/Thursday morning).

Angela Ballard continues her search for her maiden Paralympic gold competing in the 4x400m relay team as well as the individual 800m T53 event later in the week (round 1, 26:16 AEST Saturday).

Kurt Fearnley and Christie Dawes (NSW) go the distance in the men’s and women’s marathon T54 respectively on the final day of competition (01:30 AEST Monday morning).

Stay up to date with the Green and gold athletics team in Rio via AthAus social media.