There was a sixth medal for Northern Ireland competitors at the Paralympic Games yesterday when Portaferry’s James Brown took bronze in the Men’s Individual Time Trial B at Brands Hatch.
The 47 year-old, who is visually impaired, and his sighted pilot Damien Shaw from Mullingar clocked a time of 31:13.00 to secure their place for Ireland on the podium. The Spanish pairing of Christian Venge and David Caldero Llaurado took gold in 30:48.25 with the Italian tandem featuring Ivano and Lucca Pizzi taking silver with a time of 30:50.41.
“I have a theory, in about 90% of the races I’ve ever done you add the two digits of your start number together to get your position and that’s happened to me three or four times this year,” joked Brown afterwards. His start number was 12.
Last Thursday the duo narrowly missed out on a podium place in the bronze medal ride-off in the paracycling Individual Pursuit B competition at the Velodrome and they then finished ninth in the 1km time trial. But they put those disappointments behind them to add their names to the growing roll of honour at these Games for Paralympics Ireland. They were also riding a custom-made bike that Brown had made in the US. He explained: “We are riding a new bike, we opted for power rather than aerodynamics, and it really seems to have paid off.”
Brown is competing in his fifth Paralympic Games having represented Great Britain previously at both summer and winter Paralympic Games in athletics, cross-country skiing and the biathlon. This is his third medal but the first for 28 years when in his first Paralympic Games in 1984 he won gold on the track (800m and 1500m).
Brown declared for Ireland in 2009 but has only been partnered with Shaw since last Christmas and since then the pair have delivered a string of notable performances; the highlight being a silver medal in the 4km Individual Pursuit in this year’s World Track Championships in LA in a record Irish time.
Brown combines his sport with running a social enterprise and a software company but admits: “The cycling is a different ball game altogether. The passing of time and the elevation of Paralympic sport over all those years but I’ve never worked in an environment like this where we have proper professional coaching and sports science and medical back up.
“In the old days it was a little bit more haphazard and amateur, but it’s much more methodical and professional now.”
Great Britain sprinter Sally Brown (below) finished sixth in her first Paralympic final – the T46 100m – in a time of 13.74 seconds.
The 17 year-old, whose preparations over the winter had been severely disrupted by a stress fracture in her right foot, is already looking ahead to the next four years.
“It’s been an amazing experience, I’ll never forget it, being in the village and the atmosphere and the support of the team and how close we are and then the crowd and being in the stadium has just been incredible,” explained the Ballykelly girl.
“I now can’t wait to get back home and start training and get a proper winter in me and come back strong next year for the worlds.
“It has inspired me especially watching the Cuban girl get a world record and in my category there are just so many fast people and it just makes me want to come back next year and do even better.”
Bethany Woodward and David Devine both claimed their second medals in the space of two days as Great Britain's athletes swept past their Beijing haul.
Sprinter Woodward, who has cerebral palsy, claimed silver in the T37 200 metres to go with her relay bronze, while Devine, who has a visual impairment, added 800m bronze to his third-place finish in the 1500m.
It raised the hosts' Olympic Stadium medal tally to 18 on the sixth day of competition, one more than they managed four years ago.
Nineteen-year-old Woodward was strong in the home straight to see off the challenge of Maria Seifert, finishing in 29.65 seconds, 0.21secs ahead of the German.
Devine had a nervous wait to see whether he had got a medal after a photo-finish to the 800m final. The Liverpool athlete looked well out of contention in the four-strong T12 race coming off the final bend, but came storming down the home straight to snatch a medal by 0.04s.
The 20-year-old, who has a visual impairment, reeled in Cuban Lazaro Rashid to just pip him on the line.
Neither athletes nor crowd knew who had got there and the result seemed to take an age to come up on the big screen, but the huge roar which greeted it told the story.
Meanwhile, Great Britain’s archers, including Greyabbey’s Sharon Vennard, went out of the women’s Team Recurve competition at the Royal Artillery Barracks losing to Beijing silver medalists South Korea.
The team made the quarter-finals of this event in 2008, but the new trio of Vennard, Kate Murray and Leigh Walmsley found the no. 3 seeds in a different class, losing 188-153.
A few errant arrows were the big difference between the two sides but the close team spirit was characterised by Vennard as she simply said afterwards, “We win as a team, we lose as a team.”