Great Britain’s para-cycling delegation brought their A game to the velodrome on this first day of the Paralympic Games in Rio. Not only did the country rake in three gold medals in the individual pursuit event, but it also saw one of its most illustrious representatives, Sarah Storey, write her name into the history books.
With her victory in the C5 pursuit on Thursday, Storey claimed the twelfth Paralympic title of her career. She also became Britain’s most successful female Paralympian of all time.
The 38-year-old, who had won sixteen Paralympic medals as a swimmer before she took on para-cycling, once more dominated the competition in Rio.
“It is something everyone else has had over my head. I had not thought about it until two days ago when everybody kept asking me about it,” said Storey, who was congratulated by her daughter after the race. “She said ‘Well done, Mummy’. It is great having her here with Barney (husband) and my mum and dad.”
After shattering her own world record in qualifying with a time of three minutes 31.394 seconds, Storey wiped out Crystal Lane in the final race, after she overtook her fellow Brit after the 1000-metre mark.
Reigning pursuit champion. Storey has snatched every Paralympic track title since the Beijing 2008 Games.
In the race for the bronze, U.S. para-cyclist Samantha Bosco (3 min 54.697s) beat Polish Anna Harkowska by 0.004 seconds, a disappointing result for Harkowska, who won the silver in the event at the 2012 London Games.
Morelli and Giglia seal first Paralympic wins
First-time Paralympian Shawn Morelli (3 min 59.407s), from the United States of America, came away with the C4 gold after beating Australian Susan Powell in the final race. World Champion Morelli shot ahead of Powell by 5.387 seconds.
In addition to stealing the Paralympic gold away from Powell, the 40-year-old American improved the record set by the Australian at the London Games after she clocked 3 min 57.741s in qualifying.
The bronze went to American Megan Fisher (4 min 04.081s), who defeated New Zealand’s Katherine Horan (+0.356s) in the race for third place.
Megan Giglia (C3), also a first-time Paralympian, zoomed to victory in the C1–3 class and came away with the pursuit gold after catching up with American Jamie Whitmore (C3) just after the halfway mark.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Giglia. “It will when I see everyone. I’ve got my teammates, my family members backing me up. To be honest I didn’t think I’d even make it to Rio, so this is amazing.”
Reigning World Champion, the 31-year-old Brit broke her own world record, set earlier this year, in qualifying in 4 min 03.544s.
In the race for third place, Dutch Alyda Norbruis (C2) beat China’s Sini Zeng by 7.076 seconds. After smashing her category’s Paralympic record in qualifying, Norbruis once again lowered her time in the final race, clocking 4 min 10.654s.
Steve Bate ousts Kieran Modra
On the men’s side, Steve Bate and pilot Adam Duggleby took home the Paralympic gold in the 4000-metre tandem pursuit. The British team finished the final race in 4 min 08.631s, 1.663 seconds before Dutch duo Vincent ter Schure and Timo Fransen.
“It feels fantastic.” said Bate. “I am still trying to let it all sink in, but I just feel super stoked to have done it.”
Bate and Duggleby were the fastest qualifiers, with a new world record of 4 min 08.146s. Australian Kieran Modra, who had set the world record spectacularly at the London Games, had to resign himself to sixth place this time around, alongside pilot David Edwards.
“We knew we were in form and good shape coming into the Games,” added Bate. “It is just great to come here and go up against Kieran Modra in the qualifying round. He has dominated this for years, so to go up against him and beat him and break the record was just fantastic.”
The other podium position went to yet another Dutch team. In the race for third place, Stephen de Vries and Patrick Bos (4 min 15.769s) beat Spanish Ignacio Avila Rodriguez and Joan Font Bertoli by 0.905 seconds.
The individual pursuit event continues this Friday, at the Rio Olympic Velodrome.