One medal for the Australian team at the Rio athletics today was 12 years in the making, while another took just 24 hours.
Middle distance runner Michael Roeger finally had the break through at the 2016 Games tonight after missing medals in London in 2012 and Beijing 2008. He took bronze in the 1500m T46 (arm amputee class).
On the flip side in the quickness to grab a medal stakes, was the women’s 4x400m wheelchair relay team of Angie Ballard, Madison de Rozario, Jemima Moore and Christie Dawes.
They were disqualified from their Thursday night final; appealed and were reinstated after the IPC jury panel disqualified the USA. Then the United States team protested but that appeal was dismissed.
The upshot was Australia was elevated to silver behind China. Both the USA and Turkey were disqualified, which meant no bronze medal was awarded because only four countries were in the final.
“No-one did anything wrong or malicious,” Dawes said after she and her teammates finally received their medals on Friday morning.
“It was an error on the part of the Americans that they didn’t interpret the rules properly and so that was their downfall. But as a team we have trained hard for this event and we know our strengths and we know the rules.
“We were fairly confident but you never know.”
Alongside the silver and bronze, T47 high jumper Aaron Chatman took bronze with a height (1.99m) not far from his personal best (2.05m), which used to be the world record.
So that gave Australia three medals on Day 9 and a total of 20 for the sport (2 gold, 6 silver, 12 bronze) with two days of competition left.
While Roeger has been faithfully chasing a medal across three Games, Chatman won silver in Beijing in the high jump and then retired in 2009 and missed the London Paralympics. He returned to the sport a couple of years ago when thoughts of competing on the big stage started to infiltrate his thinking.
“Beijing was such an amazing experience and my career took a different path after that,” the 29-year-old said. “But the thought of coming to another Games and experiencing all this again was too much to pass up.
“I ignited the spark again and jumped 2.00 metres in Cairns last year. So I thought I might as well have a crack at Rio with a performance like that.
“That’s why I’m pretty stoked right now with getting the bronze. I’m over the moon actually.”
Roeger was not quite that elated with his bronze initially as had set times during the season which put him in gold medal favouritism.
But the pace of the 10 runners was fairly slow through the early stages, with Roeger sitting just behind the leaders. He made his move about 700 metres to go but then as the bell rang for the final lap, Algeria’s Samir Nouioua turned on the burners.
He finished with the gold in 3min:59.46s – the only one to break 4 minutes. Uganda’s David Emong (4:00.62) took silver and Roeger bronze (4:01.34), although the Australian’s season best was in the 3:55 range.
“I knew the Algerian would be the one to beat. So I wanted to take the sting out of his legs,” Roeger said of his break-away.
“So I got to the front and just kept squeezing, squeezing. I thought if I could do that, then I could kick again. But that kick never came like it usually does.”
But after missing the medals in London, he did feel some form of fulfilment.
“Definitely. London was a disaster and this was always going to be a kind of redemption. I’ve trained the last three years for this day.
“It was over so quickly. It’s a bit hard to swallow at the moment because I wanted the gold. But I’m still proud of the bronze and I hope I did Australia proud.
“Other people get medals at 16 years of age. But I’m 28. It’s taken me three Games to get this medal so I’m going to enjoy it.”
In other results, yet another 4th to the Australians – their sixth in track and field – went to shot putter Brydee Moore in F33 cerebral palsy class. She had a 5.08 metre throw in the second round that held her in bronze medal position until the sixth round.
Then United Arab Emirates’ Sara Alsenaani threw 5.09m and Moore dropped to 4th by 0.01 centimetres.
Wheelchair athlete Rosemary Little finished 4th in the T34 800m on Friday, two days after the same result in the 400m.
But the news was better for Sam Carter in the men’s T54 100m – a very competitive wheelchair class of 21 racers.
Carter finished 4th in his heat but since China’s Liu Yang pulled everyone through so quickly, the 25-year-old ended up 7th fastest qualifier for Saturday’s final.
“I was very disappointed not to make the 400m final, but anything can happen in a 100 sprint so I’m really looking forward to getting out there and having a shot,” Carter said.