Superb medals from Dan Pembroke (coach: David Turner, club: Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) Sammi Kinghorn (Rodger Harkins, Red Star) and Dan Greaves (coach: Zane Duquemin, club: Charnwood) made for a night to remember in the Charlety Stadium in Paris, bringing Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s overall tally to 19with two days of action remaining at the World Para Athletics Championships.
Kicking off the British interest on evening eight of the championships was man-to-watch Dan Pembroke. Throwing in just his fourth competition of the year, the reigning Paralympic and European champion lined up in against stiff competition in the F13 javelin, with six of the thirteen in the field holding personal bests in excess of 60m.
Showing no signs of competition rust, however, Pembroke produced a season’s best of 65.97m with his opener to immediately put the rest of the field under pressure in needing to chase.
He went even bigger with his second throw, knowing he’d done so as he turned away arms aloft, with the throw registering as a huge European record of 70.50m. Truly a cut above on the day, Pembroke went out to 66.85m in round three, with his lead established as close to ten metres at the half-way stage of the competition.
Finding 66.27m before opting to pass his fifth attempt, Pembroke finished up with 63.54m, his winning margin come the end of the competition some seven metres.
Coming as something of an early birthday present ahead of turning 32 tomorrow, Pembroke spoke on the medal and record, saying: “It’s incredible – I’m ticking all the boxes right now and everything seems to be going right.
“I’m staying focused in the competition and getting what I need to do, done. Hopefully I can tick off another one next year which is the big one: trying to get the world record.
“The competition was really long – it took over two hours, so it’s hard to maintain that adrenaline all the way through. I got that second mark in of 70.50m and I didn’t even realise it had gone that far – it felt so easy, so I really feel there’s more in me. Hopefully with a little bit of a shorter competition at the Paralympics and I can get that world record. I think I’ve cracked the code for how I need to train this winter, so I feel confident going into next year,”
On the importance of those directly around him, Pembroke added: “My coach Dave has a really keen eye – which I don’t, pardon the pun – but he sees little things in my run-up and technical faults which I don’t. So thank you very much to Dave, the support team in Loughborough, my friends and family – thank you so much.”
Returning to the track for her third individual event after already notching 100m gold and 800m silver at these championships, the in-form Sammi Kinghorn lined up in the T53 400m.
Racing out of lane six, Kinghorn hit the front down the back straight to put as much early pressure as possible on the imperious Cathine Debrunner (Switzerland), the two having enjoyed a great tussle in last night’s 100m final in which Kinghorn came out on top.
Debrunner found her rhythm, however, coming scorching by with around 250m to go. Extending her lead as the field came off the final bend, Debrunner moved away to come home in a huge championship record of 50.16, with Kinghorn pushing hard down the home straight to clock a time of 52.53, winning silver to bring up her third medal of the week and make Paris her most successful world championships to date.
Still with the 4x100m Universal Relay to come, Kinghorn said: “It’s what I came here for – a medal in each event so far, so that’s good. I found it hard after yesterday – I only had about five hours sleep, so that’s probably not the greatest. My favourite event is the 100m and I did exactly what I needed to in that event.
“I was so close to my personal best in 400m, and that’s really exciting. My start: I’m going to watch that back because I definitely fumbled some of my pushes off the start, but I’m happy with my acceleration and the time, so that’s exciting for next year.
The men’s F64 Discus starred both co-captain Dan Greaves and world championships debutant Harrison Walsh (Nathan Stephens, Swansea). 40-year-old Greaves competed in his first ever World Para Athletics Championships some 21 years ago, also in France, and immediately went down laying a marker this time out, producing 53.41m to slot into silver at the conclusion of round one.
Bumped down the standings and into fourth as America’s Jeremy Campbell and David Blair found their rhythm, Greaves first improved to 54.19m, before bettering his mark to 55.64m with this third attempt to stay rooted in fourth. In what was emerging as a great tussle with fellow bronze medal hopeful Ivan Katanusic, Greaves produced 57.92m in round five to knock the Croatian out of the medals and squeeze himself into bronze.
With Katanusic unable to match or better the mark, Greaves personal history was made as he claimed world bronze and follow Kinghorn’s commanding example as co-captain of the tam.
Feeling his way into the competition, and following a no-mark in round one, Greaves’ compatriot Walsh produced back-to-back throws of 50.12m, 51,18m and 51.06m to keep in touch with the podium places. Needing a mark in the region of 57m – a distance which would be notable personal best territory – Walsh unfortunately followed up with two fouls to box out his competition, his 51.06m best earning him fifth place.
On yet another global accolade, Greaves said: “It feels amazing – I was politely reminded that 2013 was my last world medal, so to miss out on Dubai (2019 world championships) through injury, I was really determined to come home with some silverware this time.
“At the grand old age of 40 to still be getting on a podium – it’s really special. I have my friends and family here so that makes it extra special, and to see my children’s faces when they realised ‘daddy’s won a medal’ – that’s fantastic.
“I improved each round which was good – I wasn’t quite starting off with the distances we had in warm up where I felt smoother and longer in the throw and everything slotted into place more. But I’m proud of myself for going behind and then showing the resilience to come back and throw 57 metres and pick Ivan. I just wished I’d lined it up like I do in training and my throws started with a six to put the American boys under pressure, but it’s not a bad day at the office.”
For Walsh, there are lessons to take from the experience, as he explained: “It was a good learning experience – we came in with a goal of top six, and I achieved that but obviously I think I wish I’d performed a little bit better. But at the end of the day it is my first World Championships, those nerves are something to learn from and I’ll come back better because of it.
“Some of those guys out there have been through nearly eight World Championships, and this is my first. I know I’ve got great potential and I know it’s there; I know I can do what those guys did. I’ve just got to do it on the day.
In the men’s T20 400m, there was a sixth-place finish for Columba Blango (Chris Zah, Shaftesbury Barnet) in a race won by Samuel Oliviera (Brazil) in a rapid championship record.
Running out of lane two and seeking to stay in contention as the field went out swiftly through 200m, Paralympic bronze medallist Blango did everything he could to move himself up the field but just couldn’t keep with the leading five athletes as they streaked away. Testament to his determination, Blango ran hard for every remaining metre, managing to overhaul Spaniard Deliber Rodriguez to drag himself into sixth in a time of 48.90.
Analysing the race after, Blango said: “I can call it an experience, that’s for sure. But it’s one I can learn from, take forward from this point on and just keep going from there. So, I call it a win, because I’ve got more lessons to learn.
“It was pretty tough, especially after the fatigue from the heat, but I guess it’s all a learning process and hopefully by next year I’ll be ready for the next championships. I’ll just take what lessons as they come along anyway.”
In track qualifying, Marcus Perrineau-Daley (Jenny Archer, Weir Archer Academy) was first up in the T52 100m as he aimed to progress to tomorrow’s showpiece final.
On his first ever outing for Great Britain & Northern Ireland, and in personal best form this year following a quickest-ever time of 17.40 back in February, Perrineau-Daley went in the second of two heats, with a top three finish needed for automatic qualification. He clinched the third and final automatic qualifier place with a time of 17.91, recovering from what appeared to be a difficult mid-section of the race to find his rhythm and getting into his pushing. He will now turn his attention to the final at 10:19am local-time tomorrow.
Closing off the Brits in action this evening, Kyle Keyworth (Kes Salmon) lined up in the T35 100m heats.
Fourth place in the 200m final just three days ago, Keyworth ensured safe passage to the final of the shorter sprint tomorrow by taking second in his heat. Getting out well from the gun, Keyworth stayed focus and kept his form to clock 12.80. Only beaten by Paralympic silver medallist Ivan Tsvietov in his qualifier, the Manchester Harrier will now head into tomorrow evening’s final brimming with confidence off the back of his quickest ever time.
The Great Britain and Northern Ireland medallists:
GOLD:  Gavin Drysdale [Men’s T72 100m], Jonathan Broom-Edwards [Men’s T64 high jump], Sabrina Fortune [Women’s F20 shot put], Hollie Arnold [Women’s F46 javelin], Hannah Cockroft [Women’s T34 100m], Sammi Kinghorn [Women’s T53 100m], Dan Pembroke [Men’s F13 javelin]
SILVER:  Rafi Solaiman [Men’s T72 100m], Sammi Kinghorn [Women’s T53 400m and 800m], Kare Adenegan [Women’s T34 100m], Olivia Breen [Women’s T38 long jump]
BRONZE:  Zac Shaw [Men’s T12 100m], Danny Sidbury [Men’s T54 5000m], Maria Lyle [Women’s T35 200m], Sophie Hahn [Women’s T38 100m and 200m], Fabienne André [Women’s T34 100m], Dan Greaves [Men’s F64 Discus]
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