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Athletics kicks off at Paralympic Games

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David Weir Paralympic 400m heat
Weir comfortably qualifies in 400m heats on Monday morning

 

 

 

8 September 2008

 

Dave Weir made an impressive start to his bid to win five medals at the Paralympic Games in Beijing this morning, in front of a huge crowd.

 

The multi-world champion cruised through his T54 400m heat in front of more than 50,000 spectators to set the second quickest time of the round. Weir stopped the clock at 47.26 despite floating down the last 30m of the track.

 

It would have been a Paralympic record if that had not already gone to China’s Zhang Lixin in the first heat.

 

Weir based in Wallington, Surrey was relieved to get his first event out the way and can now focus on his next heat in the 5,000m tonight. His world record for this event, set two years ago, is more than a second quicker than he produced today but judging by his form this morning it could come under threat when he takes on Zhang in the final on Wednesday (10 September).

 

Pushing in lane one, Weir was always in control. He established a healthy lead by the 200m mark and entered the final straight some 30m ahead of his nearest rival before sitting up and freewheeling across the line.

 

At 29, Weir is one of the old pros of the athletics team. For the squad’s youngest member Hollie Arnold it was all a new experience. But the 14-year-old schoolgirl was inspired by her first taste of the Bird’s Nest atmosphere to produce a solid throw in the F46 javelin.

 

Unfortunately, Hollie's best of 29.10m wasn’t enough to make the top eight.

 

“I’m really disappointed,” said the Cleethorpes athlete after finishing 11th. “I wanted to get over my personal best of 32.25m and was actually aiming at 36.

 

“But my shoulder was hurting. I aggravated it a while ago and it was bothering me today.”

 

Arnold only took up the event two years ago and is now coached by former British international Shelley Holroyd. The Atlanta 1996 Olympian has clearly taught her well, for Arnold coped admirably with the big occasion.

 

The javelin finalists had been the first competitors to enter the stadium and received a huge roar from the welcoming crowd. They had much to cheer as Yao Juan took the gold with a world record of 40.51m.

 

“I did enjoy being out there,” said Arnold. “The experience is overwhelming. And I saw my mum and dad in the crowd which was great.”

 

Scot Libby Clegg is also relative newcomer to the international scene. The 16-year-old from Roxburghshire won a 200m silver at her first world championships in 2006.

 

This morning Clegg began her T12 100m campaign by lowering the personal best she set in Holland running 12.71 to go through to this evening’s semi-finals.

 

“I heard my brother in the crowd which spurred me on,” said Clegg. “I was really pleased with the race and now I can look forward to tonight.”

 

Weir will also be back on track this evening for the heats of the men’s 5000m with Brian Alldis, while Shelly Woods goes for Gold in the women’s 5000m final.

 

For news updates on ParalympicsGB please visit www.paralympics.org.uk