SAN DIEGO, September 7, 2012 – Athletic dreams have been realized at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, some with medals and many without. World records have been smashed daily. Whether it’s at the pool, on the track, or courtside, Paralympians are pushing the limits of human accomplishment. They’re also providing the fans at the sold-out venues in London and those watching around the world thrilling competition.
So many stories to tell, so little space.
The world’s best known Paralympic athlete, South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, followed up his silver medal in the 200-meters by coming in fourth in the 100-meters, which he acknowledges is not his best event. He scored a gold medal as part of the South African 4X100 T42/T46 relay team, anchoring the team to a world record-breaking time of 41.78 second. Pistorius has one more race, and it’s his best event: the 400 meters. He will run for a second gold on Saturday.
The winner of the 100-meters was 19-year-old Jonnie Peacock, already a sensational star in Great Britain. There is talk the charismatic and chatty Peacock would race Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt in charity fundraising events, with the start adjusted to make it a more even contest.
Pistorius may be the most well-known athlete at the Paralympics, but the most decorated male Paralympian is Swedish shooter Jonas Jacobsson. He defended his men’s 50-meter rifle three positions SH1 event Thursday, making it 30 medals with 17 of them gold in nine Paralympic Games at age 47.
Navy Lieutenant Brad Snyder lost his eyesight to a Taliban IED while in duty in Afghanistan exactly one year ago today. He marked the event with a gold medal victory in the 400-meter freestyle, his second gold medal. His time of 4 minutes, 32.41 was six seconds faster than anyone else, and a far cry from the five minutes plus he was swimming in February 2012 when he decided to give the Paralympics a serious try. Snyder also won the 100-meter and won silver in the 50-meter.
Snyder, 28, who lost his sight attempting to defuse the IED, had many of his military colleagues in the stands cheering him on. “It’s really great that they were able to make it today and be with me,” said Snyder. “The crowd is so emotional, it’s hard to put that out of my mind. But after the military, I am conditioned to do that quite well. I am absolutely elated with the outcome.”
Former Formula One race driver Alex Zanardi of Italy nearly died in 2001 after a horrible crash on the track in Germany. He lost both legs above the knee in the accident. Now the 45-year-old Zanardi is a double-gold medal winner in cycling, winning both the men’s time trial and road races at Brands Hatch, a racetrack where he competed in cars a decade ago. Zanardi says Chip Ganassi and Jimmy Vasser promised him the chance to race at the Indianapolis 500 in 2013 using a hand-controlled car if he won a gold medal. Vasser says the conversation didn’t go quite that way, according to an interview in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, but don’t put anything past Zanardi.
Imagine Serena Williams or Roger Federer with a nine-year winning streak. Esther Vergeer of the Netherlands won the gold medal in the women’s single wheelchair tennis, victory number 470. She has won five Paralympic gold medals, three in singles and two in doubles, 42 grand slam titles, and has been ranked number one for 13 years.
“I know the day I will lose will come, but I don’t know when,” she said. Vergeer needs 86 more victories to surpass what is widely believed to be the longest run of consecutive wins in sport — 555 by Pakistani squash great Jahangir Khan between 1981-86. Vergeer, 31, says she isn’t ready to retire just yet, and that her rivals are “getting a lot closer.”
Great Britain’s David Weir won his second gold medal in the mens’ 800-meter T54 cycling final, and Sarah Storey won her third cycling gold medal for Team GB and the 10th of her career in the women’s C5 time-trial at the Brands Hatch race course.
The USA women’s water polo team captured gold with a win today over Spain. The USA men’s wheelchair rugby team won its semi-final by a wide margin today over France, and will play in the semi-finals against Canada hoping to make it to the gold medal game later Saturday night.
The Americans face off against Great Britain in the bronze medal wheelchair basketball match Saturday. There are several dozen events remaining in swimming and in athletics, which will wrap up at Olympic Stadium with the men’s 400-meter final featuring Oscar Pistorius.
The men’s and women’s marathons take place on Sunday, the traditional final events in Olympic and Paralympic Games competition. The Closing Ceremony is sure to be a blockbuster with performances scheduled by Rihanna, Jay-Z, Bruno Mars and Coldplay.
China is running away with the medal count, with 83 gold and 206 medals overall. With its successes in athletics and at the pool, Great Britain remains firmly in second with 32 gold medals and 114 medals total.
The U.S. has 27 gold medals and 85 overall. Eight of those medals belong to swimmer Jessica Long, who has five gold medals, two silver, and one bronze with one race left on Saturday. She is tied for most medals won with Australian swimmer Jacqueline Freney, who has eight gold medals, an amazing accomplishment.
See live and on-demand coverage of all Paralympic sports on the excellent Paralympics TV YouTube website. along with summary reports aired daily, available on demand as they are produced. Oscar Pistorius is scheduled to race at about 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She writes on professional cycling and covers the Sweet Science for Communities, along with other news in the sports world. Read more Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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