Paralympic gold rush: Irish at top of their game
POSTERS OF Ireland’s medal winners are being put on a wall in the team lodge near the stadium. But the way things are going, they are going to need a bigger wall.
By last night Ireland had won four golds, two silvers and a bronze.
At one stage yesterday Ireland was ahead of Germany, France, Spain and Italy in the medals table and this team is not finished yet.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the team had made for a “great weekend of sport for Ireland” while President Michael D Higgins said their success was a measure of their determination to succeed. Northern Ireland’s sports minister Carál Ní Chuilín described it as an “astounding achievement”.
It took Jason Smyth less than 10.5 seconds to win the 100m at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday and the best part of an hour to navigate the 100m through the mixed zone beside the track where the athletes meet media and supporters.
The world’s media wanted a piece of the man who draped an Irish flag around his shoulders emblazoned with the words that said it all: “Jason – the fastest Paralympian on the planet.”
Long before the Paralympic Games started, the Irish team looked forward to “Super Saturday”, the first Saturday of competition with three of the Irish medal winners from Beijing in action.
It turned out to be even better than expected. Not only did swimmer Darragh McDonald, Smyth and fellow athlete Michael McKillop win gold, they did so in the most emphatic manner possible.
First McDonald (18) left his nemesis, reigning champion and world record holder Anders Olsson, trailing by eight seconds in the S5 400m freestyle final.
Then sprinter Smyth won gold in the 100m T13 (for visually impaired athletes) in 10.46 seconds, lowering his own Paralympic world record.
His room-mate and close friend McKillop won the T37 (mild cerebral palsy) 800m in a world-record time of 1.57.22, despite easing up into the finishing straight.
Yesterday, Super Saturday turned into a silver Sunday. Reigning world champions Catherine Walsh and Fran Meehanwon silver in the Paracycling individual pursuit B (for blind) final at the Velodrome.
Walsh, the 39-year-old from Swords, has never let her visual impairment get in the way of being a working mother of two children and a world-class parathlete.
Then Helen Kearney won an unexpected silver on Mister Cool in the dressage event and the equestrian team, ranked eighth in the world, won bronze.