On an afternoon when the temperature soared in Rio, Welsh athletes did not wilt in the heat and won two gold medals to take Welsh athletes tally of gold medals to four surpassing London 2012.
Hollie Arnold (coach: Anthony Hughes) won gold with world record efforts, at the Estadio Olimpico for ParalympicsGB.
Arnold enjoyed a magnificent series in the F46 javelin as she set a world record of 43.01m in round two which was an improvement on her own previous best by just under 2.5 metres. The reigning world champion had extended her personal best with her very first throw, putting pressure on her competitors early on. And in her third Paralympic Games, she held on to secure her golden moment on the podium.
The Paralympic champion said: “It is pretty surreal really; it was just one of those days when everything went right. I knew I had to go out there and perform to my absolute best. I wanted to put myself into a strong position and I think I led the whole way. I didn’t even think it was my last throw (on world record effort) – so when it came up on the board as 43.01m I just thought, ‘oh wow!’ I just burst into tears; I never expected it to go that far.
“I’ve had about two to three months out with a shoulder injury this year but I’ve been working hard through rehab and trying to do as much as possible to be in the best possible shape. I felt positive about it – I’ve done some great work with the team so I cannot thank them enough.”
Stephen Morris (James Thie) had the birthday treat of competing in the T20 1500m final, placing sixth in 3:58.69. Up against the strong American Mike Brannigan, the Welshman sat in behind him for much of the race and got into an ideal position with 400m to go. However, his opponents had the quicker finish in the closing stages but Morris held on for a high placing.
Away from the Olympic stadium, the day’s other gold came as Rob Davies won the men’s singles (Class 1) table tennis title.
“I think I’ll have a job to stop smiling – it’s unbelievable,” said Davies, who beat the Korean Young Dae Joo 3-1 in the final. “I just can’t believe it at the moment. I’m just glad I came through it to be honest; he is a really tough competitor. I’ve never beaten him before so it was really good to get that win over him. I’m really chuffed.”
The two players had met twice before – at the Slovenia Open last year – and Joo had won both matches in singles and team. The first set today was a tight affair and Davies edged it 14-12 but Joo came back strongly to win the second 11-4 and at 8-5 in the third appeared to have the upper hand with some stunning backhand shots. But the Welshman is nothing if not determined and took the next five points to lead 10-8 and then took the set 11-9.As in Bayley’s final yesterday the third set was to prove pivotal. At 4-0 down Joo’s coach called time out and when the Korean recovered from 1-6 to 3-6 GB coach Greg Baker called his own time out to steady the ship. At 5-9 a service error by Joo handed Davies five match points but he only needed one as Joo netted and GB had a second gold.
“At end of the second set I just kept mentally strong,” said Davies. “Our team psychologist Tim Pitt has really helped me and I was mentally strong at the end there and bold. That is what we’ve been working on – be bold in these clinical situations and that is what I was. He’d beaten me twice and it is such a confidence boost to come here and beat him on the big stage. It was a really great match and I knew I was going to have to play my best today and thankfully that was what I did. Luckily I could get forward and I was moving well and again, our team physio Jason Beaumont has done a brilliant job here keeping me fit for this competition. I was feeling great today.”
“The support from the squad was unbelievable – the whole squad was here supporting me and it was so good to have them behind me and the guys back home who have helped me out – Tom (Matthews) who is coming through and is pushing me – it all helps. Nathan Thomas at Cardiff City Table Tennis Club has been amazing for me, kept me mentally strong and kept me fit and powerful and I can’t thank him enough.”
Davies is now focused on the team event with his fellow Welshman Paul Davies which starts today.
“We’ve got to go for it,” he said. “We are in class 1-2 so it is going to be difficult we know that but we’ve got nothing to lose. I want to win that medal for Paul Davies – he’s been with me throughout my time playing and really pushed me and I want to win a medal for him.”
Also coming up today, Jim Roberts kicks off his campaign with wheelchair rugby against Australia but all eyes will be on the Ashes showdown in the quarter-final of the men’s wheelchair basketball where Phil Pratt will be hoping to get through to the semi-finals.
Sara Head also gets started in the Women’s 1-3 Team event and Aaron Moores is back in the pool.