Friday September 7, 2012
Former F1 driver Alessandro wins gold amid multiple medallists
LONDON: Former racing driver Alessandro Zanardi on Wednesday won Paralympic gold at a circuit where he once drove sports cars, as the showpiece “Battle of the Blade Runners” took shape on the track.
It was also a day for multiple medallists, as the most-decorated male Paralympian took gold again in his ninth Games and Australia got a new star in the pool.
The 45-year-old Zanardi’s win in the individual H4 (hand-cycle) time-trial at Brands Hatch was a triumph for the Italian former Formula One driver, who was critically injured and had both legs amputated after a horror smash in 2001.
He battled back into motorsport, even competing in a touring car race at the fabled southeast England circuit in a specially-adapted car with hand controls, before switching his efforts to hand-cycling.
And although he was travelling much slower than in his Formula One and Indy heyday – his average speed was 38.652kph – he described it as “a great accomplishment, one of the greatest” of his life.
“With an engine pushing me, I didn’t realise it (the Brands Hatch circuit) was so hilly. It is very hard but if I had to design a course, this is what I would have done,” he added.
“It is beautiful, hard, it suits my characteristics of an old man.”
Zanardi’s performance was a highlight of a day that also saw Britain’s Sarah Storey win the women’s individual C5 time-trial over 16km to give her a third gold after double success on the track and the 10th in her Games career.
Czech Republic rider Jiri Jezek also won his fourth gold in four Games after winning the men’s C4 time-trial.
There were more medals for other multiple Paralympic medallists, including the most-decorated male Paralympian, Jonas Jacobsson of Sweden, who shot his way to the 17th gold of his stellar career at the Royal Artillery Barracks.
The 47-year-old has now won 30 medals of all colours since making his debut nine Games ago in Arnhem, Holland, in 1980.
At the Olympic Stadium, meanwhile, Britain’s world record holder Jonnie Peacock fired a warning shot to his 100m rivals, including South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, as the finalists were determined for the Games’ showpiece sprint.
The 19-year-old, who lowered the world best to 10.85 in June, clocked 11.08 in his T44 heat for leg amputee runners, equalling the Paralympic record that has stood for eight years – then warned he would run faster.
“It was a bad wind, a big wind: 1.6. I’ll be a bit quicker in the final,” he told reporters.
Defending champion Pistorius, making a return to the track for the first time since his sensational defeat in the 200m on Sunday and controversial comments about the fairness of his rivals’ artifical prostheses, ran a season’s best of 11.19.
Both men will be up against Beijing silver medallist Jerome Singleton of the United States, as well as Brazilian Alan Oliveira, who took Pistorius’ 200m title in controversial fashion.
Elsewhere on the track, Tunisia’s Abderrahim Zhiou clinched his second gold of the Games when he took the T12 800m for blind and visually impaired runners after winning the T13 1,500m.
Brazil’s women, secured a clean sweep in the T11 100m, with Terezinha Guilhermina lowering her world best by three-hundredths of a second to 12.01.
At the Aquatics Centre in the pool, Australia’s Matthew Cowdrey broke his own world record to take the S9 50m freestyle and surpass athlete Tim Sullivan’s previous national Paralympic gold medal record of 10.
The 24-year-old Gold Coast swimmer, an amputee since childhood, has won two golds in London as well as two silver. He is still to race in two events before the Games close on Sunday. — AFP