Spain’s Paralympic pride rises

Medals start to flow in London but wheelchair basketball team crashes out

Rob Train Agencies
06 Sep 2012 - 19:11
Paralympic cyclists Christian Venge (l) and David Llauradó show off their medals.
Paralympic cyclists Christian Venge (l) and David Llauradó show off their medals.MIKAEL HELSING (EFE)

Spain’s medal haul at the London 2012 Paralympic Games increased dramatically on Wednesday with the addition of a gold, two silvers and a pair of bronzes. Thursday’s session also saw success for Spanish cyclists at Brands Hatch and in the indoor arena.

The hero of Wednesday was José Antonio Expósito, who claimed gold and a new Olympic record in the men’s long jump F20 with a leap of 7.25 meters.

Meanwhile, at the Royal Artillery Barracks, Juan Antonio Saavedra picked up a silver in the R6 50m carbine category. The Galician marksman was the best on the day among the eight finalists with a score of 104.6, which was enough to guarantee second place on the podium. His overall score after classification and the final of 694.6 was just two-tenths shy of the gold medal.

At the Aquatic Center, veteran swimmer Teresa Perales added to her incredible medal haul in Paralympic Games with another bronze to add to her two silvers and a bronze already achieved this year. In all, Perales has 20 medals and is the most-decorated Spanish Paralympian of all time. Also in the medals was Ricardo Ten, who also won bronze in the same event as Perales, the 100m breaststroke. Perales, the Spanish flag bearer at the opening ceremony, had previously added to Spain’s tally in the 50m and 200m freestyle and the 200m medley.

We played our worst game of the tournament against the best opponent"

Elena Congost added another silver in the 1,500m T12 event, losing out to Russia’s Elena Pautova on the final lap. Pautova, 26, ran a season-best 4:37.65 to take gold.

But there was disappointment late on Wednesday as Spain’s men’s wheelchair basketball team fell to on-form Canada in the quarterfinals. Champion in 2000 and 2004 and silver medalist in Beijing, Canada blitzed Óscar Trigo’s team with a devastating early barrage from which Spain never recovered. Led by the man considered to be the finest player in the world, Patrick Anderson, who racked up 16 points, 14 rebounds and four assists, Canada drove into a 25-12 first-quarter lead and eventually demolished Spain 77-51 to set up a semifinal match against Great Britain. However, after a 16-year hiatus from the Games, a series of three wins and two losses in a group stage littered with potent rivals left Trigo proud of his players’ efforts. “We played our worst game [of the tournament] against the best opponent. We didn’t come out as aggressively or as focused as we should have done and going behind 8-0 meant we were always on the back foot,” the coach said.

On Thursday, Christian Venge and David Llauradó repeated their success in Beijing with a gold medal road time-trial at Brands Hatch. The Spanish tandem racked up a 17-second lead over its Italian rival at the halfway stage and although Ivano and Luca Pizzi chased them down in the home straight they held on to win by 2.16 seconds.

Maurice Far Eckhard opened the medal count in cycling in C2 with a bronze in the individual 16km time-trial, which was won by Germany’s Tobias Graf.

Also on Thursday, Spain’s swimmers picked up another pair of medals, the first by Richard Oribe in the 100m freestyle. Since his first Games in Atlanta Oribe has amassed 10 golds and six silvers. On the other end of the experience scale, Juan Antonio Mari scored his first Paralympic success in the S9 50m freestyle, having narrowly missed out a day earlier.

“I didn’t expect to win this medal,” said Mari after his bronze. I can’t believe it and I’m really happy because my family is here in London. But if I could pay to repeat a race it would be the 400m freestyle on Wednesday,” he added of his favorite discipline.

Mari will have a chance to add another medal in the 100m freestyle on Friday.

Elsewhere, there was a shock on the track when Spain’s 4x100m men’s T11-T13 team was disqualified from the final after recording the fastest time in qualification.

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