ParalympicsGB claim first gold medals of London Games

Sarah Storey
Sarah Storey

Great Britain have won their first gold medals on day one of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Track cyclist Sarah Storey cruised to victory in the women's C5 individual pursuit, after breaking her own world record in Thursday's heats.

In the pool, Jonathan Fox took gold in the men's S7 100m backstroke but was unable to better his world record from earlier in the day.

Nyree Kindred and Hannah Russell also secured silvers in the Aquatics Centre.

Kindred came second in the final of the women's S6 100m backstroke while 16-year-old Hannah Russell, making her debut at a Games, also took away a silver in the women's S12 400m freestyle.

Paracyclist Mark Colbourne won Great Britain's first medal of the 2012 Paralympics with a silver in the men's individual 1km time trial.

Elsewhere, Britain's double world judo champion Ben Quilter won a bronze medal after beating Japan's Takaaki Hirai in the men's -60kg judo, while 20-year-old Zoe Newson left the ExCel with a -40kg powerlifting bronze.

Two of Britain's biggest hopes, shooter Di Coates, 58, and cyclist Darren Kenny, 42, missed out on medals.

ParalympicsGB chiefs are targeting a record haul of 103 medals and second place in the overall table.

After day one, they were in third position, behind leaders China - who won six of the 28 golds - and Australia.

The home nation celebrated winning their first gold of the Games through Storey in the Velodrome.

Storey, 34, tore into the gap separating her from opponent Anna Harkowska and passed the Pole just after halfway in their 3km run-off.

But the defending champion insisted victory was not as easy as it looked.

"Mentally you have to prepare properly," she said afterwards. "I have to respect all my competitors.

"I didn't expect to catch her as quick as I did, but I stepped up my game. I just thought I had to get there quick and you're just willing the rider to come to you as quick as possible so you can just finish."

Earlier, Storey qualified for the final in a time of three minutes 32.170 seconds - more than a second better than her own 2009 world record.

It was several hours before ParalympicsGB could celebrate their second gold of the day.

Fox of Plymouth had beaten his own world-best time in the men's S7 100m backstroke at the Aquatics Centre with a time of one minute 9.86 seconds.

He was unable to replicate his blistering pace in the final but led from the off and, despite tiring severely in the last 10 metres, was able to hold on for gold.

Prior to the final, Fox told BBC Radio 5 live: "I've been in good shape for the last couple of months so wanted to put it all together for London.

"After coming second in Beijing, I wanted to go one higher. I think my time has come."

Colbourne, 42, only started para-cycling in 2009 after breaking his back in a paragliding accidentexternal-link a few months earlier.

But he recorded a time of one minute 8.471 seconds to edge team-mate Kenny, a multiple world and Paralympic champion, out of the top three.

"I've worked for the last eight months towards this," said Colbourne. "A big thanks goes to all the coaches for getting me into the best shape possible."

Kindred, who has won nine medals in three Paralympics, was aiming to regain the title she lost at Beijing in 2008.

Jonathan Fox celebrates breaking the men's S7 100m backstroke world record
Jonathan Fox celebrates breaking the men's S7 100m backstroke world record

She set a Paralympic record of one minute 27.96 seconds in her heat, but saw China's Dong Lu beat the time in the final to consign her to silver.

Teenager Russell swam bravely in her final but was edged out by the taller Oxana Savchenko of Russia, whose longer reach and smoother swimming style told as the race wore on.

But a silver medal for a 16-year-old Great Britain athlete competing in her first Paralympic Games still represents a significant achievement.

In front of a loud crowd at a packed ExCel 30-year-old Quilter, who is visually impaired, held his opponent Hirai down for ippon for bronze in the men's -60kg judo.

Double world judo champion Quilter, from Brighton, was defeated by defending champion Mouloud Noura in his opening contest, ending his hopes of gold.

But there was disappointment for shooter Coates, who was competing in a joint-record eighth Games, at the Royal Artillery Barracks.

A poor last round saw her finish on 389 points in ninth place, with only the top eight progressing to Thursday's final. China's Cuiping Zhang won the first of the day's 28 available gold medals.

Paralympic legend and defending champion Jessica Long of the United States claimed a ninth gold in three Games when she won the women's S8 100m butterfly.

South Africa's Natalie du Toit, 28, won her 11th swimming gold in the S9 100m butterfly final and is expected to contend for more medals later in the Games.

The Queen declared the Paralympics officially open during Wednesday's spectacular opening ceremony, watched by some 80,000 spectators.

About 4,200 athletes from 164 countries, including 300 from the home nation, will compete in 21 sports across the next 11 days.

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