Irish athletes commenced their 2016 Paralympic Competition with a flourish this morning following a spectacular and emotive opening ceremony. Two members of the Irish team have qualified for their respective finals after fantastic performances in their heats earlier today.
Irish swimmer, Ratoath’s James Scully became Ireland’s first finalist this morning after a fantastic performance in the S5 200m Freestyle Heats. Scully swam a season’s best 2:53.17 to finish third in his heat and progress in sixth place, notably the fastest time he has posted since his London 2012 Paralympic final.
Speaking after the race, Scully stated “I’m delighted with the placing and to be able to get into the final again. It’s a good enough time, the fastest heat swim of my career, there’s still a few things I need to work on and I’m definitely looking to go faster, it’s not at 100% yet, I’ll link back in with the coaches and see what we can improve on.”
Scully returns to the pool for the S5 200m Freestyle Final at 11.59pm tonight (Irish Time).
Teenager Ailbhe Kelly got the 2016 Paralympic Games underway for Ireland with a fine performance in the pool. The 17-year-old touched 7th in her heat and was 13th overall in the S8 400m Freestyle in a time of 5:41.36.
Kelly, making her Paralympic debut, was happy with this morning’s swim as she prepped for her main event, the 100m Backstroke, on Tuesday “I was really pretty nervous going in, first race in the Paralympic Games is a big deal, once I got that under control I really enjoyed the race. It’s really good to have my first race under my belt now and know what’s what, I know exactly how everything works and I think I’ll be really prepared for the 100m Backstroke.”
Meanwhile, in Athletics, Greta Streimikyte put in a controlled performance competing in heat two of the T13 1500m. Having led for the first 400m, Streimikyte maintained her pace to finish in third place behind Oses Ayucar from Spain with a time of 4.51.75 qualifying in third fastest position for the final.
Streimikyte, also making her Paralympic debut was delighted with her performance “To make the final was my goal and now my goal is to medal on Saturday. I was nervous but when I was out there and the crowd was so supportive, you forget about the nerves. Now want to achieve even more. I will talk with my coaches and see if I can improve any mistakes to improve for the finals.”
The final which will take place on Saturday September 10th at 3.13pm (Irish Time).
In the Velodrome, the Irish tandem of Damien Vereker and Séan Hahessy finished eighth in the Tandem Individual Pursuit (B class). The new pairing finished in a personal best time of 4.20.139, their time had them leading for the opening three heats, and putting them within six seconds of competing for bronze. The world record was broken twice in the event, first by the Dutch pairing of ter Schure and Fransen and then by GB’s Bate and Duggleby. In the pursuit the top four bikes progress to the medal final, the gold medal will be contested by GB and NED. Spain and the second Dutch bike will battle for the bronze medal.
Speaking after their qualifier Hahessy and Vereker had clearly emptied the tank on the track saying; “The track here is pretty weird, it’s hard to find your groove, and when you’re riding in zone five it’s even harder. We were hoping for a 4.16 but that’s dependent on conditions. 4.20 is pretty quick.”
“We’re not here for PBs or top 10s, we’re here for a medal. You could hear a big cheer on the start line and hear it all the way around. You’re trying to block it out and concentrate on laptimes.”
Finally, Sean Baldwin, Ireland’s shooting competitor on day one competed in his qualifier of the R1 10m Rifle Standing. Sean recorded a total score of 598.9 and finished 19th out of 43 competitors. Only the top eight progressed through to this evening’s final. Afterwards, Baldwin said he is looking forward to competing in the R3 Mixed 10m Rifle Prone Qualifier on Saturday.
Competition continues in CP 7-a-side Football and Athletics and a further report will be issued at the close of competition this evening. Follow @ParalympicsIRE for instant results from all the venues.
Here interviews from the athletes here.