Richard Whitehead (club: Southwell, coach: Keith Antoine) and Maria Lyle (Team East Lothian; Jamie Bowie) were triumphant once again on the European stage, claiming the T61 200m and women’s T35 100m titles respectively, while Sabrina Fortune (Deeside AAC, Ian Robinson) claimed women’s F20 shot put gold in a new Championship record.
They were joined on the podium in Berlin by Nathan Maguire (Halton & Frodsham, Steven Hoskins), Mo Jomni (Weir Archer Academy, Jenny Archer) and Stephen Osborne (Dartford Harriers, Jenni Banks), all of whom claimed bronze in the men’s T54 200m, T51 200m and T51 100m respectively.
Another bumper haul moves the British team onto 13 medals for the WPA European Championships, with five of those won being gold.
Fortune produced one of the performances of the day as she took gold in the F20 shot put with a Championship record 13.30m, putting together a fantastic series on her way to her first career European title, surpassing the Championship record with her first attempt of 12.89m before extending it to 13.18m two throws later.
World record holder Ewa Durska of Poland threw past the previous Championship record also with 12.93m with her penultimate attempt but was no match to Fortune who saved her best until last, nailing an effort of 13.30m to complete her dominance and add European gold to her Paralympic bronze from 2016.
Four of Fortune’s six attempts were better than the previous Championship record of 12.73m and she said: “It is amazing. I never thought I would get a gold medal here. The crowd was amazing and being a part of that field was an experience and a half. When I got the first one out, I knew it was going to be far, and carrying it on, I wanted to cry at the halfway point.
“I learnt [at the 2017 World Championships in London where she was sixth] that no matter how many times you fall down, you can get back up. There is always a chance to better yourself and you can learn from coming sixth to come first. Last night I had a dream I would win gold. I’m so glad it came true.”
Minutes earlier Lyle set the tone for a brilliant second night for the British team in Berlin, which featured five sprint finals, as she stormed to her third successive European title in the women’s T35 100m. The 18-year-old got off to an excellent start, leading after 20m and powering home in 15.32 to win gold by 0.73.
She said: “My start was good. It is not the time I wanted but I have been really struggling this season [with mental health issues] so for me just to get there, run and cope with the occasion was the main thing. People forget that it is a European Championships, it is a big deal for people like me.
“It is another learning step for Tokyo. It is not something you do often. I am pleased, it has been a great experience and I hope to learn from it. It is good to show Para sport in Europe and how it is becoming very professional and how you can’t just rely on rankings, you have got to go out and do your best.”
Whitehead followed suit in the final track event containing British interest as he raced home to T61 200m gold in 24.22 (-1.1m/s) with Luke Sinnott (Bournemouth, Roger Keller) third in 29.76 (-1.1m/s)
Whitehead ran an excellent bend to propel himself ahead of Germany’s Ali Lacin and held his form to the line to take his third European Championship gold over 200m.
After the race, he added: “Berlin has definitely put on a show for Paralympic sport. When you look at the impact since 2012, it is about making sure it is not just about the Paralympic Games, but it filters down to European level and the domestic side. We want to engage and encourage communities all over the world and hopefully we empower the next group of athletes.
“It wasn’t about winning the race, medals aren’t something that inspires me to continue. The impact sport has had one someone like Ali [Lacin], silver medallist from Germany] is definitely inspiring. The whole ethos around the team [is what has everyone talking in Berlin].”
The men’s T54 200m final saw a thrilling battle for bronze between British teammates Maguire and captain Richard Chiassaro. Maguire was in front coming off the bend and held off the late charge of defending European champion Chiassaro to win bronze by a wheel.
The pair pushed each other all the way to the line with Maguire just doing enough to pip his teammate to a spot on the podium, earning himself a first senior medal in the process.
Maguire’s official time was 26.05 (-0.6m/s) – to Chiassaro’s 26.13 – and he said: “It is the first time I have ever medalled at a major event and to do it in that race as well, which was so jam packed, I knew it was going to be so difficult. We have been working on my starts and it paid off today.”
Jomni, who returned from the last European Championships in Italy in 2016 with four medals, demonstrated his class on the continent once again as he battled to win bronze in the men’s T53 200m in 29.06.
He said: “I am glad to be back after a year off. It was a bit of a slow start but I managed to snatch a bronze. It is a good warm up and I am just happy to be back representing Great Britain & Northern Ireland and I can’t wait to relax now because I was sweating [about the race] to be honest with you.
“I am really happy with that bronze, it is a good come back. I just had to do it out there. I can’t wait for the World Championships [in 2019]. I have done the Europeans so many times, I still enjoy it and it is always great for mindset for the worlds and for Tokyo 2020.”
Fellow wheelchair racer Osborne was also made to work hard to reach the podium in the men’s T51 100m final but did so brilliantly as he held off the challenge of Helder Mestre of Portugal to take bronze in 25.68.
Osborne said: “The start was OK, the middle was slow, the end was slow as well, but I am pleased I got on the podium. It has been a good season, I have only started again in the last six months and hopefully next year will be better.
“I am getting there. I am going to have a rest now and start training for next year. I am looking at it one year at a time, but I haven’t got any injuries and hopefully next year will be better.”
Sinnott had earlier been involved in the T63 long jump competition, placing fourth overall with a best effort of 5.54m despite his blade snapping in his third round. He continued on a borrowed blade from another competitor, but he saw no further improvement prior to his sprint final.
British Athletics Medallists: (13)
Hollie Arnold – F46 Javelin
Sabrine Fortune – F20 Shot put
Harri Jenkins – T33 100m
Maria Lyle – T35 100m
Richard Whitehead – T61 200m
David Devine – T13 1500m
Luke Nuttall – T46 1500m
Zak Skinner – T13 Long Jump
Ali Smith – T38 400m
Mo Jomni – T53 200m
Nathan Maguire – T54 200m
Stephen Osborne – T51 100m
Laura Sugar – T44 / 64 100m