Wednesday, September 14th, 2016 will go down as a day to remember in Irish Paralympic history as the team marched home with two gold, one silver and one bronze medal following a fantastic day of performances for Team Ireland.
Colin Lynch was first tobring home some silverware following a fantastic performance this morning in the C2 Time Trial which saw him take silver in a time of 28.02.25: “It’s something I’ve worked at now for four years, it’s an absolute dream to finally achieve the one thing that I didn’t have in the closet, a Paralympic medal. I came here with the express desire to win the gold medal and I raced against the Canadian earlier in the year, it was really close so I was trying to figure out how I can get those seconds back and I made some changes to everything to try to squeeze it out but on the day he was the better rider.
“The one thing I wanted more than anything else in my career was a Paralympic medal, so I’ve come away with that. Because winning a Paralympic medal is a chance you get only every four years I think once it’s hanging around my neck I’ll think this is the best achievement to date.”
Eoghan Clifford was next to romp home to glory, winning gold in the C3 Time Trial in a time of 38.21.79 and was crowned Paralympic champion. Clifford led the Men’s C3 30km Time Trial from start to finish, an event he has dominated since competing in Paralympic sport in 2014.
“Today I was very determined and really disciplined during the ride,” said Clifford. “I kept my position really well. I must say I was a bit angry today, I was not happy with my result earlier in the week [Bronze in the Pursuit] and I really wanted to prove that I’m a better rider than that. In the Time Trial, apart from a World Cup in Bilbao where I had a very bad mechanical, I’ve never lost a Time Trial in para cycling. I didn’t want to break that record now.”
Meanwhile, Ireland’s second gold of the day came from women’s tandem duo, Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal who finished half a minute ahead of all their opposition to win their Paralympic title in a time of 38.59.22.
Dunlevy and McCrystal were delighted with their win: “That’s the first time I’ve heard that, Paralympic champions. Sounds nice, I’ve been dreaming that for a long time, dreaming of that for the last four years since London. We’re over the moon, ecstatic, I can’t describe how I feel.”
Also in action in road cycling this afternoon were the men’s tandems of Damien Vereker and Sean Hahessy and Peter Ryan with pilot Marcin Mizgajski who finished 6th and 17th respectively in the Men’s B Tandem Time Trial.
“The first five minutes were pretty easy, probably the best five minutes of the race,” Damien Vereker said, “We never worry about other people when we go into a race, concentrate on how I’m going.”
Ryan and Mizgajski were slightly more upbeat, having received a late call onto the team, and described how they pushed themselves to the limit. Ryan said: “We went out there, had a little chat beforehand and the two of us said look it leave it out there, when it’s all done wipe the spit off your face and smile. That’s exactly how I feel.” Mizgajski is looking forward to the Road Race this weekend adding: “We can do anything here (in the Road Race). People don’t know us here, they might let us go, and if they let us go they might be surprised.”
Meanwhile, swimmer Ellen Keane won Ireland’s fourth medal of the day in a fantastic race in the Rio Aquatic Centre. She collected her first Paralympic medal when she won bronze in the SB8 100m Breaststroke final in a time of 1.23.07.
The 21-year-old swam a fantastic race, and though she turned fourth after 50 metres behind Poland’s Paulina Wozniak, pushed on with confidence in the last 25 metres touching the wall a full two seconds ahead of the Pole in 1:23.07.
Delighted afterwards she said: “I’m a bit emotional, I think I’m a bit in shock! I knew from the morning that we only had to drop one person and knew a couple of the other girls were playing it easy but I watched the video analysis earlier and Alan (Swanton) said ‘you’re not at a high stroke rate for breaststroke , you kind of panic so just think ‘long and strong’. As I felt the two girls beside me go forward I was like ‘don’t panic, keep it long and strong!’ When I finished I didn’t think I’d won a medal and then I looked up and saw the three. I was looking at the numbers frantically! I couldn’t believe it! I’m actually a bit annoyed at that time because I know I can go faster but I just created my own luck there in being the most recovered.”
Keane returns to the pool tomorrow for the S9 100m Butterfly and will be in confident form after tonight’s performance. She will be joined by four time finalist Nicole Turner in the S6 100m Backstroke.
Also in action today were Ireland’s CP 7-a-side footballers who suffered a further defeat today as they lost 2-1 to the USA in the 7th/8th place classification match. In a tightly fought contest, the USA started positively with the majority of possession in the first twenty minutes, and some defensive errors forcing a number impressive saves from Irish goalkeeper, Brian McGillivary. The deadlock was broken in the 13th minute with a goal from Seth Jahn, and held the 1-0 lead going in at the break.
Ireland struck early in the second half with a cracking goal from Dillon Sheridan in the 31st minute, and although Tom Badun and Sheridan put the USA goal under more pressure, the USA struck for their second goal in the 56th minute and held on to the 2-1 lead right to the final whistle.
Speaking afterwards, captain Luke Evans commented: “It was tough to lose it at the end; it was a very competitive game and defiantly one that we could have won, we are very disappointed but that’s football. The game is steadily improving and we need to improve with it.”
Football Team Leader Barry Ferguson added: “We are disappointed to lose, it was probably our best performance of the tournament so far but again it wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t up to the standard that we had set ourselves over the last year. We are bitterly disappointed with the result. We haven’t really performed over here, which is very disappointing we were in a very competitive group and we were kind of expected to be in this game, the way we have gone about it just hasn’t been good enough.”
Finally, Ireland’s three-person keelboat of Ian Costelloe, Austin Carroll and skipper John Twomey, competed in three races today due to the postponement of Race 4 yesterday due to low winds. Midday saw the start of Race 4 with Ireland finishing in 10th position. They slipped back to 13th position on Race 5 before finishing the day on a high with 5th position after Race 6. They now lie in 10th position overall.
The trio will be in action again Thursday afternoon local time with races 7 and 8. There are 10 races in the series before the medal race.