Day four offered the Paralympic Inspiration Programme (PiP) group the chance to split and visit their specific sports. This provided the athletes the opportunity to experience and understand the competition environment and what it takes to succeed.
However, before the sport could begin, the group was paid a very special visit by HRH The Earl of Wessex. Athletes were introduced to the Patron of the British Paralympic Association, who has been a fantastic supporter of disability sport over the years. He was very interested to hear all about the Programme and the impact the opportunity was making on each athlete’s development. Some of the group coincidently met up with him later at the wheelchair tennis, where they continued the conversation.
The wheelchair tennis athletes watched four Brits in action on court, and their main observation from the day was how similar the environment on the court at a Paralympic Games was to any other competition, highlighting that when it comes down to it, success comes from sticking to the same routine and plan.
The para-triathlon group headed to Copacabana Beach to witness history being made, and the first ever Gold medal for Brit Andy Lewis in the PT2 event. The crowd was heaving, locals leaned out of their windows and the atmosphere was electric. Two helicopters circled above filming for television, the clock counted down as the anticipation built before the claxon sounded and they were off. It was fantastic to see a Brit exit the water in first place (George Peasgood), and ultimately see the event take place for the first time. The competition was well supported and it was a real pleasure to witness history.
Judo was a brilliant experience for those that went along, not least because athlete ambassador Ben Quilter got his group access to the warm-up area and a chance to chat to ParalympicsGB team member Jonathan Drane, who was competing in his first Paralympic Games. The athletes were blown away by the atmosphere, and there were lots of questions asked about the functionality of being a visually impaired athlete at a Games and the important role of support staff.
As the afternoon drew in the entire group came together at Rio Centro for the Powerlifting competition. They were treated to a wonderful spectacle and some fantastic seats to cheer on British hope and military athlete Micky Yule. The union flags were out and the cheers were loud as he attempted his opening lift – the group was really fascinated to be able to watch a sport so different from their own, and to experience the atmosphere at the venue. Micky finished sixth with Nigerian athlete Paul Kehinde taking Gold. The PiP group cheered and whooped when Kehinde went on to lift 220kg and break the World Record!
Elsewhere military athlete Dave Henson qualified in the T42 200m Heats on the athletics track and will race in the Final tomorrow. Mikey Hall ranked 18th in the Men’s Compound archery, and Joe Townsend gave his all in the PT1 para-triathlon to claim 6th place.
It was also fantastic to hear that PiP graduate Alice Tai win Bronze in the pool in the 100m Backstroke S10 – a great legacy of the Programme.
Tomorrow the group will split again into their specific sports to further develop their understanding of the competition, and how to build their readiness over the next few years. In the evening they will head over to the Maracanã to support the Brits at the athletics.
Of the military athletes, Jon-Allan Butterworth is back in the Velodrome in the Mixed Team Sprint, and Jo Butterfield and Dave Henson are at the Maracanã in the F51 Club Throw and T42 200m Final respectively.