8 September 2012 - Today was the last full day of competition, and the MEDAL QUEST team and I were drawn to Track and Field again. We were especially watching the preliminary heats for the women’s 100m (T-54) wheelchair race to see the McFadden sisters, Tatyana and Hannah, sprinting head to head.
Tatyana had already won gold 3 times in these Games, and 16-year-old Hannah was competing in her first race at her first Paralympics.
We all cheered madly when the sisters advanced to the finals, and when Tatyana took the bronze. “I’m proud of both my girls,” said their mom, Deborah McFadden, who admitted to us that there were nights before these races when she hadn’t been sleeping so well.
After that exciting race, came another: the men’s 400m (T44). As with the men’s 100m and 200m, the big draw was South Africa’s “Blade Runner,” Oscar Pistorius. The crowd was shouting “Oscar! OSCAR!” well before the men took the field.
But as the athletes sat waiting to be called, I was thinking this race was anyone’s to win. Besides Pistorius, there was MEDAL QUEST’s Blake Leeper, who’d already won a bronze; his great teammates David Prince and Jarryd Wallace; Alan Oliveira, who’d beaten Pistorius just days before; and other racers from Germany, Russia, and China, the top medal-winning country of these Games.
Then the gun went off, and you could see how fast Pistorius started and how perfectly he ran. Blake Leeper won silver at 50.14, a personal best and less than a second under the world record, and David Prince was right behind him for bronze.
Blake Leeper and David Prince
But the gold went to Oscar Pistorius, who ran an amazing 46.68 seconds, knocking more than 4 seconds off the world record. As Oscar himself said earlier in the week, these racers are running so much faster than even a year or so ago, it’s “ridiculous.”
Other impressions of the night:
- the Iranian who celebrated his win in javelin by spreading his country’s flag on the track. kneeling and kissing it.
- the astounding leaps by the men in the F46 high jump, including four who broke the past Paralympic record. One, Poland’s Maciej Lepiato, broke the world record by a lot, .07 m higher than any Paralympian had ever jumped.
- the announcement that a record 1.5 million people had come to the Olympic Stadium to watch track and field in these Games.
Tomorrow: the Marathon and Closing Ceremonies.
Judith Vecchione, for MEDAL QUEST