Paralympic Games: Josie’s amazing journey from tragedy to glory
A DEDICATED athlete who broke her neck in a horror car crash which killed her boyfriend and left her paralysed yesterday continued Team GB’s Paralympic gold rush – by smashing a world record.
Josie Pearson’s remarkable sporting journey saw her win the F51 discus event in front of a roaring Olympic Stadium, which was sent into raptures as she clinched gold.
Nine years ago, aged just 17, Josie was a promising showjumper but was forced to give the sport up when she was involved in a car crash which broke her vertebrae, leaving her paralysed.
While recovering in hospital, she met Great Britain wheelchair rugby player Alan Ash, who encouraged her to give his sport a go. Five years after the accident, she was a ground-breaking Paralympian in the sometimes brutal event dubbed “murderball”.
Josie later turned to wheelchair racing, but her track hopes were dashed six months ago when she was found to have a cyst on her spine – and was again forced to change sport.
Now, the determined Bristol-born athlete, who has only been throwing for 18 months, is celebrating after winning gold – Britain’s 32nd of the games.
Josie, 26, said: “This is the most amazing feeling. I am never going to forget this experience in my life.”
She said sport played a “huge role” in her rehabilitation.
“I was really sporty before the accident and I knew that after it I had to get as fit.” she said.
“To compete in front of a home crowd – to know that everyone is behind you – is amazing.”
The medal rush continued after so-called “Thriller Thursday” with Britain surpassing its total 2008 Beijing medal haul of 102 medals and their 2012 target of 103.
With significant media coverage and record crowds at the venues and TV audiences at home, the games look set to find success beyond sporting records.
A survey out yesterday revealed the overwhelming majority of the British public saw members of Paralympics GB as “good role models”. The ITV News poll found 85 per cent of people believed the athletes were inspirational role models.
Four in five said they thought the London Games would help encourage people with disabilities to be “more visible” in the British media, with 84 per cent saying they were proud of the British men and women taking part in the Games.
Just under two thirds said they thought the Games would reduce negative stereotypes about disabled people and 56 per cent believed the Paralympics would reduce discrimination.
As well as British success, Friday also saw another gold for Irish runner Jason Smyth. The 25-year-old, the fastest Paralympian in the world, added the 200 metres crown to his 100m title with another dominant display.
Earlier, Ireland’s Mark Rohan won his second event of the games with victory in the men’s H1 road race. Rohan finished two seconds ahead of Tobias Frankhauser, with Wolfgang Schattauer of Austria third. The Irish now have eight golds.
Iraq’s Ahmed Naas became a crowd favourite yesterday, despite only taking javelin silver. The 20-year-old, who has dwarfism, threw a new F40 world record of 43.27 metres and celebrated with a triple cartwheel before falling to his knees. China’s Wang Zhiming – already the shot put champion – took gold, throwing 47.95m with his final effort.
Italy’s Alex Zanardi claimed his second Paralympic gold medal with victory in the men’s H4 road race at Brands Hatch.
The 45-year-old now has two wins at the Kent motor-racing circuit, where he first raced as an F3000 driver 21 years ago before losing his legs in an accident in 2001.
Zanardi, who won time-trial gold on Wednesday, won the 64km race in a sprint finish ahead of South Africa’s Ernst van Dyk, with Belgium’s Wim Decleir third.
He said: “To win this race in such a dramatic way and sprinting makes me really proud. It shows that I am a complete cyclist, even if I have no legs.”
One of the world’s most successful swimmers, Natalie du Toit, signed off a thrilling end to her Paralympic career with a silver in the S9 100m freestyle. The South African has won a staggering 13 titles over the last three games.
She also competed in the open water at the Beijing Olympics as well as reaching the 800m freestyle final at the 2002 Commonwealth Games – the first time an athlete with an impairment had qualified for the final of an non-disabled event.
Du Toit said: “It’s all over. I went out there and tried my best. I now walk away from the sport. To get second is a little disappointing.
“Two months ago I wasn’t going to come to the Paralympics. It’s been a tough couple of months. I look back and realise I gave everything in the pool and gave everything as a person. It’s time to move on. “I’ve no idea what’s next.” At Brands Hatch, American Marianna Davis won a H1-3 women’s road race that saw Great Britain pair Rachel Morris and Karen Darke cross the line holding hands in a failed bid to share bronze.
Morris was awarded third in a photo finish behind American Monica Bascio.
Australian Matthew Cowdrey said he plans to carry on to Rio in 2016, despite clocking up 20 medals over three Paralympics in the pool.
Britain’s Jonnie Peacock admitted he was considering a 2016 bid for the Olympics after his golden success on Thursday night in front of a roaring crowd.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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