SAN DIEGO, September 8, 2012 – South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius provided the grand finale to a glorious 10 days of competition at the 2012 London Paralympic Games Saturday with a world record winning time in his signature event, the men’s 400 meter T44 final.
It’s been a dream Games for Pistorius, the unofficial ambassador for Paralympians around the world. Despite missing a medal in the 100 meters and having a bit of a fit after taking silver in the 200 meters, Pistorius won two golds in the 4X100 meter T42/46 relay and in tonight’s final event at Olympic Stadium.
Pistorius finished in 46.68 seconds, three seconds ahead of silver medalist Blake Leeper from the United States. After the race, Pistorius enjoyed his victory but admitted he was nervous before the race, and tired.
“It was my 11th time I was able to come out on the track and I just wanted to end and give the crowd something they would appreciate and take home with them.
“I’m so proud,” he said in a broadcast interview. “This summer has been a dream come true. I couldn’t hope for anything better. It’s been the most amazing Paralympic Games and to run two world records and get three medals is such a blessing for me.”
All eyes were on the man nicknamed “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fiber prostethics. The capacity crowd of 80,000 rose to its collective feet as Pistorius hit the turn with the victory all but assured. It was the moment he and many of the Games’ fans had waited for.
In this final full day of competition, medals were awarded in swimming, athletics (track and field), wheelchair basketball, fencing, rugby and tennis.
Israel’s Noam Gershony won the men’s quad singles wheelchair tennis gold medal, beating David Wagner of the United States. It was Israel’s first gold medal of both the Paralympics and the Olympic Games.
In what is becoming an all-too common scenario, Gershony was left paralyzed after the military helicopter he was in while serving in the Israeli military during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 crashed. He was the only survivor. He started playing tennis as part of his rehabilitation in 2007.
“My co-pilot got killed and I was severely injured with broken bones,” Gershony said earlier this year. “This gave me good perspective on what could have been.
“I almost got killed. I must make the most of it and make my life worth living and try to do good.
“There was so much pressure to bring home the gold because I knew I could do it,” he said. Gershony also won the quad doubles gold with teammate Shraga Weinberg.
The American men’s wheelchair basketball team defeated Great Britain for the bronze medal. In the gold medal game, Canada defeated Australia. American Raymond Martin won the men’s 200-meter T52 gold.
The man who in many ways turned out to be the heart and soul of the Paralympic Games, cyclist Alex Zanardi of Italy, picked up a silver medal to go with his two gold medals in the final day of cycling competition at Brands Hatch. The USA Mixed H 1-4 cycling relay team of Marianna Davis, Matthew Updike and Oscar Sanchez won the gold medal over the 45-year-old former-Formula One driver and his team members.
The Paralympic Games themselves will finish on Sunday with the traditional final events, the men’s and women’s wheelchair racing marathons. Popular British Paralympic star David Weir will draw thousands of people to the streets of London to watch him finish out what has been the most successful Paralympic Games ever. He’s won four London Marathons on the same streets.
The Closing Ceremony will take place at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. It will not be broadcast on television, but will be shown live on ParalympicTV.com via YouTube. The online producers have done an outstanding job of covering the games, and the YouTube channel has offered consistent high quality transmission with high definition video and first class camerawork matched with knowledgeable, professional announcers. http://www.youtube.com/user/ParalympicSportTV
The theme is “The Festival of Flame,” and features the British rock band Coldplay, who will perform a set of their best-known songs along with collaborations with Jay-Z and Bajan-born singer Rihanna.
An orchestra formed by 17 disabled musicians is also expected to play. There will also be performances by Jamiroquai, Bruno Mars and Jay Sean. All of the performers are receiving exactly one British pound for performing at the Games (apparently to satisfy labor requirements).
China secured the leading medal count days ago, with 95 gold and 231 medals overall. With its successes in athletics and at the pool, Great Britain remains firmly in second with 33 gold medals and 118 medals total.
The U.S. has 30 gold medals and 96 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. Brazil’s Daniel Dias won six gold medals, a win in every single swimming competition he entered. Sarah Storey of Great Britain won four gold medals in cycling, and Raymond Martin won four golds in wheelchair racing.
Associated Press and Paralympic.org contributed to this column.
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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