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James Turner will line up for his third Paralympic gold medal – his second in Tokyo – after becoming the fastest qualifier for the 100m (T36) sprint final on Saturday morning.

It was the same drill for the 400m on Tuesday, even though it was a straight final. Turner, as the world record holder and fastest this season, asserted his dominance to win gold.

On Friday night, he started to ease back in the final strides of the 100m (11.87) taking a quick look to his right where China’s Deng Peicheng (11.88) was straining his neck out over the finish line. The fastest in heat two was Malaysia’s Mohamad Puzi (12.07).

Turner is also world record holder in the 100m (11.72, which he set taking gold at the 2019 Dubai World Championships) and is the man to beat in Japan.

On the Paralympic stage, this former soccer player caught everyone’s attention with the 800m gold at the Rio 2016 Games – but the event was discontinued in Tokyo.

However, with one gold down and one seemingly just over the horizon, Turner will have three Paralympic gold medals at the ripe old age of 25.

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Rhiannon Clarke stepped up to the plate in the 400m (T38) heats on Friday night recording a new personal best by 1.79s to finish 4th her heat (1.02.65) and earn herself a second Paralympic final at her first Games after the 100m on Saturday night (5th).

And the 19-year-old had to overcome being handed a yellow warning card for movement on the blocks. Cerebral palsy athletes are allowed one warning.

“My arm just slipped a little. It definitely didn’t put me off. I probably should have been going a bit faster at that 200-metre mark,” she said.

“But with 50 to go I thought ‘Maybe I can catch up to a few people’,” which is exactly what she did passing three in the straight.

“It was painful but I chased hard and got home in one piece. I’m heading home to the Village now for an ice bath, recovery boots, just everything to get ready for tomorrow (the final).”

While Turner and Clarke progressed to their second finals at the Games, for Guy Henly and Sam McIntosh it was a very unwelcome groundhog-day feeling.

The pair each finished fourth in Rio in their respective finals in the morning session – Henly in the discus throw (F37), McIntosh in 100m (F52) wheelchair sprint – and that’s how they ended up again in Tokyo.

But they will be in the stands on Saturday to cheer on teammates who are in six finals. First they need to dissect their own races and deal with the disappointment.

“I’m still processing it all myself. But it is tough getting fourth place at a Paralympic Games,” 34-year-old Henly said.

“You put all the hard work in and it’s a long five years. But obviously I’m very happy to be here and getting that chance at a medal because a year ago, who knew we’d even be here.

“So I have to go back and think it all through and come back better and stronger next time. We’ve got Worlds (2022 Kobe) in a year and maybe I can make up for it with a medal back in Japan.”

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McIntosh has the same pit in his stomach.

“It is tough after finishing fourth in Rio, to come back and get the same performance again,” the 31-year-old said.

“I was pushing really well coming into these Games, so I was disappointed not to get that jump off the line that I’d been preparing for. But sometimes things just don’t work out in sport like the way you planned.”

Henly, alongside cheering for the Australians, will keep one eye on the women’s Discus (F38) where wife Jenn Brown is competing on Saturday. The pair live in Calgary, where Henly went to link with coach Kim Cousins.

“I haven’t been back to Australia since 2018. We planned to be back in 2020 but we had to cancel our flights just before we were due to leave,” he said. “We’re hoping to get back as soon as things loosen up a bit (with borders) and we’ll do quarantine if necessary.”

Henly has eyes on his third Paralympics in Paris in 2024. For McIntosh it would be his fourth.

“It’s the same feeling right now that I had in Rio,” McInosh said. “I want to get on that podium – that’s my goal – and I’ll keep coming back around again until hopefully I get that.

“I just need to be quicker next time,” he said of his 17.82s in the 100m today – 0.38s off bronze.

“I’m 100 per cent committed to all the training and work that’s ahead for things to happen.”

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Henly had two fouls in his six throws – but he kept improving over his last three finishing with a 48.72m, when gold by Pakistan’s Haider Ali was 55.26.

Henly’s PB is 53.99 and he said the rainy, cooler conditions in didn’t help.

“I had plenty of competition in the lead-up. I just think it was just getting to grips with the wetness – and everyone was in the same boat with that,” he said.

“I was getting used to it right at the very end and it was a bit too late then. I didn’t have enough pepper on the end of my throws.”

By: Margie McDonald, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 3 September 2021