Monday, 24 September 2018

Leander & UTRC athletes win paralympic gold

GREAT BRITAIN’S rowers made history in Rio last weekend when they took three golds and a

GREAT BRITAIN’S rowers made history in Rio last weekend when they took three golds and a bronze at the Paralympic Games regatta – their best-ever medal haul.

Leander’s Pam Relph was the only member of the LTA mixed cox four to return from the gold medal crew at London 2012.

With Grace Clough from Nottingham at bow, Upper Thames’ Dan Brown at two, Relph herself at three and James Fox of University of London in the stroke seat, the crew was coxed by Leander’s Oli James.

As they went to the start line they knew they would need the race of their lives to retain GB’s Paralympic crown after the USA crew had recorded the faster time, by some four seconds, in their earlier heat.

The GB four immediately made their mark, taking the lead off the start, and by halfway they led comfortably. Across the line they had clear water, while the anticipated threat from the USA had been dissipated into second place and Canada were third.

It was a clear demonstration of the crew’s superiority and meant they had overcome the challenge posed by the Americans who led the world final until they were overhauled by Relph’s crew in the dying strokes just one year ago.

Speaking after successfully defending the title, Relph said: “It feels amazing. Coming through that last 250m I knew that we had won it, I knew no one would come through us and the crowd really lifted us.”

Meanwhile Brown, speaking after picking up his first gold, said: “It is an incredible feeling. There have been some ups and downs on the way but it just shows that perseverance pays off.”

A delighed cox James added: “I am very proud of this crew. We planned for it and got the result we needed. The perfect execution of a race.”

Finals day had begun with a dominant performance by Guildford’s Rachel Morris in the AS single sculls, who added Paralympic gold to the silver she had won at last year’s world championships in Aiguebelette. The Israeli world champion Moran Samuel started swiftly, with Morris tucked in the  chasing pack until China’s Paralympic newcomer Wang Lili emerged to take the lead, but a surge in the  final 350m gave Morris victory.

Also back on the podium with a bronze medal was Beijing 2008 champion Tom Aggar, who renewed his rivalry with world champion Erik Horrie in Sunday’s final. But it was newcomer Roman Polianskyi of Ukraine who took top honours after recording a Paralympic best time in his heat, pushing Horrie back into silver with Aggar third.

GB’s third gold came in the TA mixed double sculls where Marlow’s Lauren Rowles and her Tees RC partner Laurence Whiteley set a world best time in winning their heat. The GB duo blasted out of the blocks, had a second over China by halfway and were never challenged after that.

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