Team China’s para-cyclists impressed this Friday, winning two of three individual pursuit events held at the Rio Olympic Velodrome. Equally lauded were Team Great Britain’s wins in the first time-trial events at the Paralympic Games.
In the Men’s C1 pursuit, China’s Zhangyu Li, UCI World Champion and gold medallist in the time-trial at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, won Paralympic gold honours after having beaten Canadian Ross Wilson in the final.
“I am so happy to have won the gold medal. I am so excited at achieving my goal here in Rio. Now I want to come back for future Games and win more gold medals,” commented the 28-year-old Chinese athlete, who during the qualifications also lowered his own world record to 3 minutes 50.373 seconds.
Rounding out the podium, The Netherlands’ Arnoud Nijhuis took home the bronze medal.
In C2 class racing, Guihua Liang successfully defended his Paralympic title in the Pursuit event. In the final match-up, the 32-year-old bested Canada’s Tristen Chernove (current UCI World Champion) by 2.859 seconds, ending up with a final time of 3 minutes 44.553 seconds. Liang dominated the qualifications, recording a time of 3 minutes 42.916 seconds – a Paralympic record.
In the bronze medal final, Briton Louis Rolfe (3 minutes 47.951 seconds) out biked Colombia’s Alvaro Galvis Becerra (+ 1.868 seconds).
In C3 racing, Australian David Nicholas snagged his first Paralympic title in the pursuit. In the final round, the 24-year-old out-raced the reigning champion of the event – American Joseph Berenyi, by 1.014 seconds – with a time of 3 minutes 33.028 seconds.
Earlier in the day during the qualifications, Nicholas lowered the Paralympic time in the C3 pursuit with a time of 3 minutes 32.336 seconds.
In the bronze medal final, Ireland’s Eoghan Clifford (3 minutes 40.201 seconds) bettered Canada’s Michael Sametz (+1.389 seconds).
Cundy and Thornhill: victorious time-trial
The first two time-trial events at the velodrome were won by athletes from Team Great Britain.
In Men’s racing, Jody Cundy finally earned a Paralympic title in the C4-5 time-trial. After a distressing loss at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the four-time UCI World Champion flew over the Kilo in 1 minute 02.473 seconds: a new Paralympic record in the class.
“I was trying not to be nervous and focus on my start so much. I probably didn’t get the best start, but that doesn’t matter now. All that matters is being Paralympic champion. I have never wanted the title more than this one after London even though I can never make up for what happened there,” 37-year-old Cundy stated.
Slovakia’s Josef Metelka – silver medallist in the time-trial at the last three UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships – once again was decorated with silver, at +1.721 seconds from Cundy.
Spain’s Alfonso Cabello Llamas, London 2012 Paralympic Champion, completed the podium, and also established a new Paralympic Record of 1 minute 04.494 seconds in the C5 Class.
In Women’s racing, Great Britain’s Sophie Thornhill and pilot Helen Scott took the Tandem title, in addition to setting a Paralympic record, traversing the 1000 metres in 1 minute 06.283 seconds.
The Netherlands’ Larissa Klaassen and Haliegh Dolman earned second place and silver, at +0.776 seconds of the winners.
Thornhill and teammate Scott anxiously awaited Klassen and Dolman’s results as they rounded the track, given that the latter are World Paralympic Time Trial Champions.
“The moment we saw they were not going to beat the time we just screamed. There are no words to describe how happy, relieved and proud we are to win the gold medal. It’s just incredible,” commented the youthful, 20-year-old Briton, who finished second at the time-trial at the most recent UCI World Championships.
Australia’s Jessica Gallagher and Madison Janssen (+ 1.888 seconds) won the bronze medal.