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Highlights from British open Athletics Championships

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Suffolk teenager Brian Alldis was amongst the top performers of the British disability athletes supported by the lottery funded World Class programme in an exciting weekend of action on 10–11 June at the British Open Athletics Championships at SportCity, Manchester.

Alldis, 19-year-old wheelchair racer, who is coached by Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, collected three titles and finished second in three other events at the British Open Championships, organised by Disability Sport Events. Only Holland’s Athens 2004 Paralympic Games multi-medallist, Kenny van Weeghel, prevented Alldis from adding to his golden haul.

Alldis, supported by UK Athletics’ World Class Development programme, got off to a great start with a silver medal in the T54 100m in a time of 15.79 seconds. Gold went to Van Weeghel in the event in which he won bronze in Athens. 

“It was a bit of a shock for me because I’m not really a sprinter and I didn’t expect to do sub-16 seconds,” said Alldis. “I was quite close to my personal best of 15.40, so that was pleasing.”
Alldis was a comfortable winner over 800m, one of the events he is concentrating on, alongside the 1500m. He clocked a time of 1:51.80 to win Saturday’s race. He won his 400m heat, before finishing runner-up to Van Weeghel in the final. But the young British athlete can draw heart from his performance - he finished just over a second behind the flying Dutchman - who won gold over this distance in Athens. Aldiss clocked 53.55 seconds at the Manchester Regional Arena, with van Weeghel crossing the line in 52.18.

On Sunday Alldis was back in action on the track and hungry for more medals. He took gold in the T54 1500m, winning by more than 12 seconds in 3:35.33. Once again van Weeghel claimed top place on the podium in the T54 200m.The Athens 2004 silver medallist clocked a time of 26.36, with Alldis taking silver in 29.14. But Alldis rounded off his weekend in style by capturing the T54 5000m title in 12:28.25 in his first race over the distance for a couple of years. 

“I was really pleased with the weekend. Training has been going well and it was good to turn it into good performances on the track,” he added. “It was great to get so close to someone like Kenny, who is a really good racer.”

Nathan Stephens, another of Great Britain’s talented young disability athletes, was also in good form claiming a hat-trick of titles. The 18-year-old from Bridgend took gold in the F57 javelin with a throw of 31.59m and followed that up with gold in the F57 discus, throwing 31.05m. He rounded off a strong weekend with gold in the F57 shot with a throw of 11.29m.

The versatile Beverley Jones enjoyed another successful weekend. The 31-year from North Wales followed up her F37 shot gold at the Visa Paralympic World Cup at the same venue last month by taking gold in the same discipline at the weekend. Her winning throw of 10.13m was 11cm further than her decisive World Cup throw. Jones also took a pair of Golds on the track, winning the T37 100m in 14.84 seconds and then taking the T37 200m in 32.36 seconds. Anne Strike completed another hat trick of titles, winning the F53 100m, 200m and 400m across the two days of competition. 

In a weekend when strong winds helped the sprinters’ times, Michael Churm and Neil Fachie completed sprint doubles, winning the T37 and T13 100m and 200m respectively. Matthew Cliff took Gold in the T12 100m.

Mickey Bushell based in Birmingham, was among the outstanding young athletes to make a big impact at the weekend. Bushell, who celebrated his 16th birthday on Thursday, won the T53 100m in 16.53 seconds, ahead of Iftakhar Hussain, and finished second to fellow Brit Michael Hevitt in the 200m and 400m.

The men’s T36 sprints produced a couple of fine races, with Athens 2004 Paralympian Graeme Ballard taking the 100m title in 12.52 seconds ahead of up and coming rival Ben Rushgrove, who clocked 12.64 seconds and Tom Wilson recorded 13.82 seconds for Bronze.
But Bath-based Rushgrove turned the tables on Ballard in the 200m, taking gold in 25.91 seconds. Ballard fell twice during the race, but picked himself up both times to finish in 33.63, with 18-year-old Tom Wilson taking silver.

Hazel Robson won a brace of Golds in the T36 sprints, taking the 100m in 15.53 seconds and the 200m in 32.64. Lloyd Upsdell had to settle for silver in the T35 100m in 13.76 seconds behind Iceland’s Athens 2004 silver medallist Jon Halldorsson. Richard White took bronze in 15.38 seconds. The Icelandic athlete completed a double by taking the 200m title.

Elizabeth Clegg took the T12 100m and 200m titles in 13.61 seconds and 29.48 seconds, with Lisa Daley secured the T13 gold over 200m. John McFall struck gold in the T42 200m. Tracey Hinton followed her outstanding performance over 400m at last month’s Visa Paralympic World Cup with Gold in the T11 800m. 

Britain’s throwers also suggested they are in good form ahead of September’s IPC World Championships in Assen, the Netherlands. David Gale won the F51 discus with a throw of 9.44m – three centimetres further than the distance that won him bronze in Athens two years ago and 10cm further than his 2006 Visa Paralympic World Cup winning throw. Richard Schabel threw 9.27m to take silver.

Gale said he was pleased with his victory, but would have liked to have thrown further:
“I’ve been throwing quite well in training and I was hoping for around 9.75, so I was a bit disappointed with 9.44,” said the Southport thrower. “It wasn’t too bad for this stage of the season though and I’m feeling confident about Assen. My personal best is 10.22m, which I threw a few years ago, and I’m hoping to get towards 10m again towards Assen.”

Danny West threw 33.08m to take gold in the F34 discus and then completed a brace of titles by throwing 10.01 to win the F34 shot. There were also a pair of titles for World Class Development athlete Martin Crutchley, who won the F38 shot (11.23m) and the F38 javelin (25.26m).
Stephen Miller won the F32 club – the event in which he has struck gold at the last three Paralympic Games – with a threw of 31.37m. Schabel once again had to settle for silver in the F51 club with a throw of 20.40m.

Athens Paralympian Kim Minett threw 6.54m to win the F40 shot, while Andrew Williams threw 6.55m to win the men’s F32 shot. World Class Development athlete Bernie Doolan took bronze with 6.45m. Doolan followed that up as highest placed British athlete in the F32, when he again took bronze with a 12.22m throw.

Kathryn Periac, UK Athletics Disability Performance Manager, was delighted to see such encouraging performances from talented young British athletes, like Nathan Stephens, Graeme Ballard, Ben Rushgrove, Mickey Bushell, Dean Miller and Elizabeth Clegg, at the Championships:

“They have shown they are on the pathway for London 2012,” she said. “Several athletes also produced results that were top five in the world this year, which showed they are medal contenders for the World Championships.”

The weekend’s action, which featured 200 disability athletes, also saw a world record fall to Holland’s Pieter Gsuyters – he threw a new benchmark of 38.44m to win the F56 javelin title.