Paralympics 2016: Libby Clegg savours 200m win after 'horrible' 100m triumph

By Jane LewisBBC Scotland
Libby Clegg (right) and her guide Chris Clarke
Libby Clegg (right) and her guide Chris Clarke

Libby Clegg may be a double Paralympic champion but admits she did not enjoy winning her first gold in Rio.

The Scottish sprinter loved every minute of her success over 200m - but her 100m experience four days earlier was, in her words, "horrible".

Clegg won her T11 100m heat with a world-record time but was subsequently disqualified because her guide, Chris Clarke, was deemed to have pulled her along in the race.

The British team appealed against the decision and she was reinstated for the final.

But the 26-year-old, who is visually impaired, told BBC Scotland: "Going into the final, I felt very nervous and my start was a bit ropey.

"I didn't enjoy winning my 100m. At the medal ceremony, there were protests against me so it wasn't a great experience. I just felt a bit sad as I felt my integrity had come into question and I'd never want to win a medal dishonourably."

Long road to Rio

Perhaps Clegg's experiences over the last year or so made it easier for her to pick herself up and prepare for the 200m, although the build-up to that race was far from smooth either.

In the last two years, Clegg has been plagued by illness and injury. She was ruled out of the European and World Championships, which in turn meant she lost her funding from UK Athletics.

"It's a decision I don't have any bad feelings about and actually it's ended up being a good thing," she explained.

"It's made me much more assertive and take accountability for my own actions."

Clegg still managed to train full-time as other sponsors supported her, but there was more upheaval for the Scot.

In November 2015 she decided to split up with her guide of five years, Mikail Huggins. Then, in February 2016 and with the Paralympics in Rio only seven months away, she joined forces with new guide Clarke.

"It's been the best decision I've made," she said. "It felt like a fresh start and I think that's what I needed going into Rio.

"The decision was made quite late in terms of having lots of time to practise but we managed to pull it off so I'm really happy."

Libby Clegg (left)
Clegg had to run blindfolded after being reclassified from T12 to T11

'Joy and relief'

However, another problem arose. Her deteriorating eyesight meant she was reclassified from T12 to T11 two months out from the Games.

"Being reclassified was nerve-wracking, a bit daunting," she said. "Wearing a blindfold is a huge part of it and I didn't know if I was going to adapt well to that.

"It's terrifying running with a blindfold as you can literally only hear what's around you. You have to have a lot more trust in your guide."

But Clegg did adapt, very successfully - even though Clarke suffered a migraine on the day of the heats and semi-final.

"He [Clarke] was really ill and was sick just before we headed on the bus to the stadium," she said.

"I felt confident going into the 200m in Rio. It's my strongest event.

"It's not really sunk in yet. It's really surreal to be honest. But it's a dream come true.

"There was a mixture of emotions. The joy of winning gold and the relief, as it's the last race of the season."

But it is not the last season of her athletics career. Clegg is talking about competing at the Tokyo Games in 2020 and attempting to add to her four Paralympic medals.

"I'll be 30 then - and that's not too old," she added.

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