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Brits taste glory in Manchester

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Ben Rushgrove
Ben Rushgrove

As Britain bade farewell to one of the sport’s true legends, there was a glimpse of some of the nation’s future stars of disability athletics at the VISA Paralympic World Cup in Manchester on Sunday.

 

The rain streamed from the skies throughout the meeting and there were tears flowing within the Manchester Regional Arena as Dame Tanni Grey Thompson, winner of eleven Paralympic Games gold medals, six times London Marathon winner and multiple world record breaker competed for the final time.

 

On an emotional day, Dame Tanni finished second in the T53 200 metres in 35.01secs to leading American Jessica Galli in 34.40.  Afterwards, she said: "I'm so emotional, I can't stop crying.  The support was fantastic, especially on a day like this. But I'm just pleased it's done.  I am really, really happy that it is finished.

 

"Today was hard, because so many people were saying 'Good luck'. But I'm really happy I don't have to do that again.  There's not an ounce of me that wants to do it anymore.  I guess a day like today was fitting because there was nothing that was going to tempt me back. It's nice to feel that it's truly over.

 

"As for the race, my start and pick up were okay, but I just couldn't get going after that.  There's lots of reasons for that, partly my feelings, partly the conditions.  I really am better in the dry."  Elsewhere there were some terrific performances from that belied the windy and rainy conditions.

 

The vast majority of the British team had just arrived in from the sun-kissed UK Athletics warm weather training camp in Monte Gordo, Portugal.  Despite the contrasting conditions, there were numerous PBs and - incredibly - a world record from Ben Rushgrove.

 

Rushgrove splashed his way to a scorching 24.86 to win the T36 200m in his first outing of the season.  "I have no idea where this came from.  I knew I was looking for the world record some time this season but this is my first time out and to do it in these conditions is amazing.

 

"I felt so good, I said 'Yeah, yeah'. I was waiting for the Ukrainian to come and overtake me because he beat me at the world championships last year.  I turned round and couldn't see him. 

 

"I thought, 'Wow, that's a huge gap.' I couldn't believe it."  Later in the day, he did the sprint double by winning the T36 100m in 12.49, again relegating world champion Audrey Zhyltsov (Ukraine) to silver.

 

There was also further evidence of the world class versatility of David Weir who won the T54 200m and 400m, in championship records of 26.18 and 48.53 respectively, just three weeks after winning the London Marathon. 

 

After the 400m, he said: "That's the fastest I've ever been on this track by about two seconds, so it's a big improvement and shows how well everything is going at the moment.

 

"I'm just loving every distance at the moment.  I'll train for every distance from 400m upwards, but I love the 400m most. It's such a good event. I love the hard training."  He also paid tribute to his retiring Norwich Union GB & NI colleague. "It's great to be here for Tanni's last race. She has always been a mentor for me really.

 

"I remember back in Atlanta in 96 when I was 17, she was a great help to me because I was so young. And watching her in Sydney when I was taking a break (from the sport), that's what made me come back and start working really hard."

 

There were further British victories from a delighted John McFall, who won the men's T42 200m in 26.84, beating French rival Clavel Kayitere into silver for the first time ever; Danny Crates, who won a hard-fought men's T46 800m in 1:58.35; Beverley Jones, who took the women's F37 shot put with a championship record of 10.26m and Daniel West who won the men's F52-58 shot put with 10.68m.

 

All in all, it added up to a tally of eight gold, nine silver and three bronze for the home team.  UK Athletics Performance Manager - Disability Tim Jones said: "I am not getting over excited, but there were some quality performances in difficult conditions. 

 

"It also proved that coming here on the back of the warm weather training camp worked well.  This competition has given our athletes a good base on which to make more progress this summer."