Paralympic Games: Scot strikes gold in day of UK glory
SCOTLAND’S Paralympians were celebrating their first gold medal last night after cyclist Neil Fachie raced to victory in the one kilometre tandem time trial.
It was the 28-year-old’s debut as a Paralympian cyclist after competing on the athletic track at the Beijing Games in 2008. Yesterday, Fachie and his pilot, Barney Storey, tore up the velodrome in style, breaking the world record in one minute 1.3 seconds.
Fachie’s gold contributed to a successful day, dubbed Super Saturday, for Britain’s Paralympians. Ellie Simmonds, poster girl for the Games, claimed ParalympicsGB’s second gold medal in the pool last night when she triumphed in her S6 400 metres freestyle shoot-out against Victoria Arlen – demolishing the American’s world record by more than five seconds.
Earlier, sprinter Richard Whitehead sent the Olympic Park wild as he powered to gold, beating his own world record in the 200m T42 final. Minutes later, Natasha Baker won ParalympicsGB’s first equestrian gold at Greenwich Park.
Scotland’s Libby Clegg enjoyed a burst of glory when she broke the world record in the heats of the 100m, but saw her time beaten within minutes. She was due to take part in the semi-final later last night.
Scottish judoka Sam Ingram, 27, narrowly missed out on gold last night. He took silver after losing to Cuban Jorge Hierrezuelo Marcillis for the under 90kg crown in front of a raucous crowd at the ExCel.
Speaking after winning gold, an ecstatic Fachie paid tribute to the support of the crowd in the velodrome: “The atmosphere was electric. The crowd pushed us round that final bend. I just can’t believe it. To be here winning the gold medal is a dream come true.”
Storey added: “The crowd were great on that last lap. I thought I was dying at that point and it [the crowd noise] was a big push behind me.”
Fachie’s family were among the thousands cheering the pair on. His mother, Linda, 54, said: “I’m a bit hoarse now. It’s mind-blowing. It has not sunk in yet, it’s just amazing. I’m so proud.
“He has been a world record holder and world champion, but there’s something really special about Paralympic gold. We’re absolutely thrilled to have been there today.”
Fachie was born with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition, which causes visual impairment and blindness. But as a child growing up in Aberdeen, he never allowed it to hold him back, trying his hand at a number of sports including gymnastics, trampolining and athletics.
His talent earned him a place in the British Paralympic team that went to Beijing, where he took part in the 100m and 200m track events but missed out on a medals.
“He could pretty much turn his hand to any sport, so it was just a case of choosing which one he preferred,” his mother said. “He has a degenerative eye condition and it is something that will get worse, but he does not see it as a disability – focus on the ability, not the disability.
“He sometimes has to do things slightly differently, but he just gets on with it and does not see it as a problem at all.”
Fachie graduated from Aberdeen University in 2006 with a degree in physics, but sport has always been his first love. Since 2009, when he was named Aberdeen Sports Person of the Year, Fachie has gone on to win four World Championship gold medals and broken two world records on the bike.
“He has always worked really hard but, since taking up cycling, I have never seen him in such good shape,” his mother said. “He has done everything. Even his diet is really healthy.”
Fachie teams up with Storey again today as they go for a second gold in the tandem sprint – so his family have put his Champagne on ice. They, however, raised a glass on his behalf. “We will be celebrating for him,” his mother said.
Yesterday, tributes poured in for Fachie. Sir Chris Hoy, GB’s most successful Olympian, tweeted: “Many congrats tho to @neilfachie & @barney storey!”
Also on Twitter, Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, wrote: “Congratulations to cyclist Neil Fachie who has just won gold. Another gold postbox for Aberdeen! #Paralympics.”
SNP MSP Mark McDonald added: “I mind Neil Fachie when he was a wee laddie at the athletics club, now a gold medallist at the Paralympics! Well played!”
Fachie’s friend and neighbour Rachel Morrison tweeted: “My next door neighbour just won gold and broke the world record in the Paralympics #WELLDONEHIM.”
Fachie has also received praise from Holyrood. Shona Robison, minister for Commonwealth Games and sport, said: “Well done to Neil Fachie and his pilot Barney Storey for winning the men’s individual 1k time trial.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP added: “It’s incredible to think that Neil only joined the para- cycling team three years ago, so to reach the pinnacle of his sport in such a short time is a tremendous testament to his determination to reach the top.”
As well as his mother, Fachie’s father, Stan, 58, his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew have been in London cheering him on.
Today is his sister Emma Batt’s 34th birthday and she knows exactly what she wants. “No pressure, but she wants a gold medal,” Linda said. “He has not had the chance to buy her anything, with everything that’s going on. And it’s the least he can do!”
Yesterday’s success put ParalympicsGB in second place in the overall table, with 27 medals, including seven gold, 11 silver and nine bronze.
Meanwhile, a 12-year-old girl has become the three millionth spectator to attend the London 2012 Games at the Olympic Park yesterday.
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