Five medals on day five heralded the Australian team’s most successful day of the 2019 World Para-athletics Championships in Dubai, UAE.
The day belonged to shot putter Cam Crombie, who became the first of six Australian athletes on the 2019 team to successfuly defend their gold medal from the last World Championships in London, England, two years ago.
His win in the men’s shot put F38 gave Australia its fourth gold of the Championships.
“It’s massively about the support crew around me,” Crombie said after his winning 15.73m throw. “There’s no way I would have got to this without the doctors and physios from Athletics Australia. That’s not a plug; that’s actually how it is.”
“I live in my coach Hamish MacDonald’s pocket day-in, day-out. Without him reassuring me, ‘You’ve got this. You’ve got this,’ my mind would start to wander.
“You need the faith in what you’re doing – put the foundations down and then finish it off on the day.”
It wasn’t the only celebration for that event. Former gridiron player Marty Jackson, who has partial paralysis in his left knee after dislocating it during a game, claimed the bronze in a personal best (PB) of 15.14m.
“To say I’m ecstatic is an understatement,” Jackson said. “To come into round three sitting in fourth position, my brain just switched on and I said, ‘You know what? I’ve got to try and PB. I’ve got nothing to lose – go hunting’. And that’s what I did.
“I just put everything I could into the last three rounds.”
Jackson’s PB moved him within a centimetre of Ukraine’s Oleksandr Doroshenko in the silver medal position. But the medal colour was not on his mind.
“I was hunting a world record – I know it’s in me. I was going for top spot. So to come out with a bronze medal is amazing. I can still feel my heart ticking.”
The third member of the F38 shot put crew was Sam Walker, who was in the unusual position of having his track (100m) and field events on the same day – in fact, within 10 minutes of each other.
The 17-year-old finished 4th in his 100m heat with a PB of 11.69, but failed to qualify for the final. He finished 9th in the shot put at his first senior World Championships.
Australia’s other three medals on a glorious day for the green and gold came from Madison de Rozario (silver) in the women’s 1500m T54 final and Sarah Walsh (bronze) in the women’s long jump T64, with a bronze medal also won in the men’s 100m final T38.
Walsh, a 20-year-old leg amputee, finished fourth in this event at the 2017 World Championships, which made a podium finish this time around extra special.
“So stoked with that,” Walsh said. “I’ve been dreaming about this for the past two years – just to be able to stand on the podium with the world’s greatest and know I’m up there.”
Walsh had been moving around the medals when she pulled out the winning 5.20m leap – starting in fourth spot, then to third, back to fourth, up to second, before finally settling on third.
“I started off a little bit choppy and then finally got into the rhythm. My coach Matt Beckenham said to me, ‘Just put a jump out there that’s going to scare the girls,’ and that’s what I did.
“I knew I was capable of jumping big.”
De Rozario is gradually working her way up the medal ladder. It was bronze in the women’s 1500m T54 in London two years ago and silver in the final in Dubai on Monday (11 November) night in 3:34.09.
“That was a super cagey race. I think we always knew it was going to be,” de Rozario said, adding that she and coach Louise Sauvage had tried to formulate a plan to deal with the unexpected.
“She said it was going to be anybody’s race. I’m happy, since I went into the race feeling like it was going to be completely out of control.
“I was boxed in there for a little bit, but I found a gap, and got through to make it work.”
Being the current world record holder probably made de Rozario a target. She and teammate Eliza Ault-Connell were in the fifth and sixth positions for two laps in the race, with nowhere to move.
de Rozario grabbed an opening and picked up the pace over the final 100m, catching Amanda McGrory on the line to force the American into bronze. Ault-Connell finished 6th in 3:36.46.
In other results, 18-year-old Ari Gesini was fourth in his men’s 100m T38 heat to miss out on a finals berth, even though it was a PB for the teenager.
“That was my first ever senior international race,” Gesini said. “I wanted to try and get the nerves out, get used to the call room, and the officials checking everything a number of times.
“But I love it. I want to be here more often.”
Gesini still has the long jump to come later in the week.
Jake Lappin qualified for the men’s 1500m T54 final in one of the most dramatic races seen at the Dubai Championships yet.
In Monday morning’s heats, Tunisia’s Yassine Gharbi pulled off the track after one lap with a right arm injury. Then, with less than 300 metres to race, three wheelchairs collided – two flipping over in spectacular fashion.
It happened just behind Lappin and thankfully the trio of Aaron Pike (USA), Putharet Khongrak (THA) and Alexandre Dupont (CAN) were able to roll off the track after initial treatment from medical staff.
Lappin ran sixth in the evening final in 3:03.27. Two hours later and he ran third (48.36) in his men’s 400m T54 heat to qualify for Tuesday’s semi-final.
There will be a second Australian there, with Samuel Carter (48.21) winning his heat to also make the semis.
The last event of the night saw Sam McIntosh finish third (17.76) in the men’s 100m T52 heats to qualify for Tuesday’s final.
By Athletics Australia
Photo with thanks to Athletics Australia