Paralympic gold medallist David Weir was among the winners at the inaugural London Disability Athletics Challenge at Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Taking place on the same track where Usain Bolt had blazed a trail in the preceding two days at the Aviva London Grand Prix, 30 year old wheelchair racer Weir demonstrated an equally impressive turn of pace as he soared to victory in his specialist T54 800m and 1500m events in 1:42.56 and 3:18.41.
The event - organised by UKA - was the first of its kind and is part of an overall strategy to develop competition opportunities for Paralympic athletics in the UK in the lead up to London 2012.
The response to the new competition was “truly immense” according to UKA Head Coach for Paralympics, Peter Eriksson as over 200 athletes from 22 nations descended on Crystal Palace. Weir was happy with his performance, but equally delighted with the formation of the event.
He said: “We need more competitions, more track competitions in this country, especially for the up and coming athletes. I am alright because I can travel and I get invited to all these big races. But they don’t get the opportunity to race day in day out with world class athletes. I think it’s a great idea.
“As a junior I didn’t really travel anywhere. I know they have got junior World Championships now, but they really need competition before that, mixing with men - especially here (in the UK). For 16 and 17 year olds, it gives them that bit more confidence, makes them train a bit harder and then it will look good for the future.”
Asked if he was surprised at the healthy number of international athletes, he said: “Yes, very surprised. It was good to see. It’s well organised, UK Athletics are backing it, it was just a really good event and I hope it will carry on.”
Other British winners included Ian Jones (T54 100m and 400m), Hazel Simpson (T36 100m), Ben Rushgrove (T36 100m), Gemma Prescott (seated shot and discus), Stpehen Miller (seated club throw), Tracey Hinton (T11 100m and 200m), Daniel Greaves (F44 discus) and Chris Martin (T33 discus).
But GB athletes didn’t have it all their own way, there was some seriously talented overseas athletes on display too. In Shelley Woods’ T54 class the Brit had tough competition against Beijing medallists Tatyana McFadden (USA) and Liu Wenjun (China), which ended with McFadden taking the 800m, but Wenjun taking the 100m and 200m, with mere fractions separating the athletes on each occasion.
Earlier in the day, the Aviva Parallel Success All Comers Event took place, which provided scores of development athletes with a vital competition opportunity.
for results of LDAC
for results of Aviva Parallel Success