Team GB's Jonnie Peacock tackles Oscar Pistorius and sub-11.3 field in 100m showdown
Regardless of what its participants happen to be wearing on the end of their legs, it will be one of the most enthralling 100 metres in sporting history. A tenth of a second divides the favourites, there has been an unprecedented amount of pre-race needle, and the scene is set for records – and egos – to crumble.
At 9.24pm tonight the starting pistol will be fired on the blue-riband event of the 2012 Paralympics when the blade-wielding gladiators of the Games – Oscar Pistorius, Britain's Jonnie Peacock, America's Jerome Singleton and Brazil's Alan Oliveira –will contest the T44 100m final in the Olympic Stadium. It is likely that after a blistering 11 seconds, the medallists will be separated by a distance less than the width of their prosthetics.
The dash of the blade runners is just one of a procession of mouthwatering showdowns on "Thrilling Thursday" which will see 65 gold medals handed out across eight disciplines.
David Weir will bid for his third gold in the T54 800m, while Hannah Cockcroft returns to the track in the T34 200m. Britain's sailors are also guaranteed at least a silver and a bronze – their first medals of any Paralympics. Asked about his chances of a third medal against younger rivals, Weir said: "It's going to be tough. That's why you have to train 20 per cent harder."
But it is upon the T44 100m that the world will focus tonight. When a month ago Usain Bolt was anointed the world's greatest-ever sprinter in the Olympics, he did so with a margin of 0.12 seconds over his closest rival. In last year's Paralympic world championships, the margin between first and fourth in the blue-riband sprint was 0.09 seconds.
Despite the rivalry between Singleton and Pistorius, which saw the South African beat the American in Beijing by 0.03 seconds, it is Britain's Peacock who enters the race as the world's fastest amputee sprinter after setting a new world record of 10.85 seconds in July. Peacock, 19, who lost his leg at the age of five due to an infection linked to meningitis, last night equalled the Games record of 11.8 seconds to win his heat. But he promised an improved performance tonight: "The end of the race wasn't as controlled as I'd like it to be. I'll come back stronger tomorrow."
Given the world has yet to see a 100m final in which all able-bodied starters finish below 10 seconds, tonight's race could be the greatest-ever sprint with all finishers breaking the golden target of blade runners of sub-11 seconds.
Singleton said yesterday: "This is going to be some of the best amputee sprinting you've ever seen. When you look at the Olympics there was Usain Bolt. But when you come to the Paralympics, there are about six individuals within a tenth of a second of each other. It's going to be an epic final."
With so many ego-driven athletes competing in a starting line-up, mind games have also played their part in the run-up to the race. In the wake of this week's row about the length of Oliveira's blades provoked by Pistorius, it emerged yesterday that South Africa had further stoked the flames by asking the International Paralympic Committee for an "urgent investigation" into allegations that athletes had been running illegally on different-sized blades in heats and finals. The IPC said it had found no evidence.
When asked about Pistorius's pre-race protestations that he does not consider himself a favourite for the 100m, a knowing Singleton said yesterday: "Oh, he's going to be prepared."
Anticipation of today's extravaganza followed another successful day for the host nation. Cyclist Sarah Storey, 34, is on the cusp of equalling the British record of 11 Paralympian golds held by Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and Dave Roberts after she defended her C5 time trial. She races in the road race today. Team-mate Mark Colbourne won his third medal when he took silver in the C1 time trial. Bethany Woodward, took silver in the women's T37 200m and David Devine won his second bronze, this time in the sight-impaired 800m.
Independent News Service