New work venue today – the warm up track beside the main stadium. There is no work to speak of we were not required to repair a thing. This was a good thing, as it meant no athletes had any last minute disasters before they went across to the main stadium. It was a GREAT thing as it not only gave me the chance to watch Kelly Cartwright in her warm up and wish her luck, it gave me access to the stadium to go and watch her long jump in the morning. (Whilst technically I was meant to be working at the warm up track – my Portuguese colleague Ricardo was kind enough to cover me so I could go and cheer her on – right beside the pit.)
For those who have not witnessed a long jump competition, it is VERY stressful at this level – let me tell you. The event was transfemoral and transtibial athletes combined with a points system based on the world record jump distance in each category. This system is designed to level out the big advantage a transtibial (below knee) has over a transfemoral (above knee) amputee.
The event had 15 competitors that were then narrowed down to a field of 8. This group then had 5 jumps to determine the medals. It was incredibly nerve racking as Kelly was leading for the entire event. GB’s unilateral amputee Steph Reid and French Marie-Amelie le Fur were nipping at her heals the whole way. Every jump the GB athlete did resulted in the crowd erupting – it seemed a serious possibility that with the crowd behind her, she might be piped for gold. Kelly nailed it though when on her 3 jump she managed a world record jump. The GB girl could not match this on her last jump making Kel’s last jump irrelevant – Gold in the bag! I had the pleasure of being able to congratulate her in person.
In speaking with Kelly’s relieved coach, Timmy Mathews, after the event, he was pleased to have a bit of the pressure off Kel now going into the 100 metres on the 5th September.
Dave and Cathy Howells were also in the stadium today. Amazingly they were able to get tickets through a lottery system similar to Sydney Olympics AND were also lucky enough to score them right in front of the Pit as well. (This is the first Parra games to every be sold out!)
Hopefully our mad cheering helped to drown out the GB crowd – one thing is for sure the many hours of work that Dave and APC put into her prosthesis helped! You legend Kelly!
After my shift finished I went back to Bethenal Green for a few pints with my long time buddy Johnny and his wife Renee. Johnny is in the process of getting a PHD at Oxford (in 2 years instead of the normal 4) looking for a vaccination for Hep C Always was a bit slow that guy!
With the all access pass in my possession, I jumped straight back on the tube to get into the stadium once again – this time to watch Carlee Beatie win Silver in the long jump. With a few issues early on with her run up, she did her biggest jump just when it was needed. She leapt 5.57m to move into second place, just .06 behind leader Nikol Rodomakina, of Russia with only one jump to go. Awesome work Carlee, you B#$%#!@ legend.
I also had the opportunity to watch the much hyped Oscar Pistorius 200m final. Amazingly in a big upset he was pipped over the line by Brazilian bilateral athlete Alan Oliveira. Then the controversy began, with Oscar complaining about the length of the Brazilian’s blades.
This is a very interesting debate although not new one. Prior to Sydney, Tony Volpentest had a protest against the height of his prostheses and he was banned from competing on them. Now the IPC use anthropometric data to ensure that all athletes are “proportional” in their height. As it is proportional, there is still the need for the athlete to work to optimise their height for their own style. (It is by no means an exact science with lots of trial and error on the running track.)
What I found interesting was, as I had predicted from the world Championships in 2011: There were 4 bilateral amputees in a race of 8; meaning that there were only 4 normal legs and 12 carbon blades were in the final! Added to this, all three medals were to Bilateral amputees and the winning time was a world record by nearly a second (the previous world record was Oscar’s in the heats). This highlights my belief that there should be a separate race for Bilateral amputees and unilateral amputees.
The debate over unfair advantage between a bilateral amputee and able bodied athletes still rages and will probably never be able to be answered definitively. However, there is no doubt, at least in my mind, about the advantage a bilateral amputee holds over a unilateral amputee once the distance increases over 100m and the slower start (less power production) becomes less of a factor.
I had to run out of the stadium to take a call from a radio station in Sydney to avoid being deafened by the roar from the British crowd whenever a GB athlete was competing – I love their enthusiasm – can’t even remember the Aussies being so loud in Sydney!
It’s great to see so much interest in all that is going over here.
The controversial trio….
Oscar Pistorius, Alan Oliveira and Blake Leeper are handed their medals.
Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images