Orla Barry the hero in Rio as she takes silver in discus
ORLA BARRY added Ireland’s eighth medal of the 2016 Paralympics in Rio when she finished second in the women’s F57 Discus.
It brought the Irish haul to eight; four gold, two silver and two bronze; meeting the target set by Paralympics Ireland before the Games. However, it still falls well short of the 16 achieved in London four years ago. Barry was one of those medallists in London, taking third in discus, but improved to the silver medal position yesterday after being second for most of the competition with her best throw of 30.06m coming in the third round.
Algeria’s world record holder Nassima Saifi was the winner of the competition with a best effort of 33.33m that also came in the third round: “Everybody who comes here is coming to win a medal,” said Barry.
“There’s nobody here for the day out. To be able to go home with a medal is fantastic. It’s not a personal best, there is more in me, but any day I can throw over 30 is a good day really. I am gaining on her (Nassima Saifi) all the time and the plan is to close the gap and maybe some day take her down. We’ll have to put more work in and see where we can get more distance out of it.”
The Cork woman, who celebrates her 27th birthday next week, has been competing for ten years and finished fifth in Beijing before taking the bronze in London. She was runner-up at the IPC World Championships in 2013 and bronze at the Worlds in Doha last year.
The amputee picked up her first international gold this summer at the Europeans in Grosseto. Meath man Paul Keogan was also in action at the athletics stadium. After struggling all summer to be fit for the Games, he suffered the misfortune of being disqualified from the heat of his T37 400m due to a false start.
It was the only event that the Cushinstown athlete was contesting in Rio and now will have the long journey home to reflect on what went wrong. Ellen Keane made a swift return to the pool at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre after her bronze in the SB8 100m breaststroke final on Wednesday night.
It was the 21-year-old Dubliner’s first Paralympic medal and came at her third Games after drawing blanks in both Beijing and London. Yesterday Keane produced a surging last 50m to finish second in her S9 100m butterfly heat and reach the final that was held late last night.
The seemingly indefatigable Nicole Turner was also back in the pool and the Portarlington 14-year-old did enough to reach an incredible fifth final of the Games in the SB6 100m Breaststroke. Patrick O’Leary finished sixth in the KL3 Canoe final in Rio despite clocking his fastest time of his debut Paralympic Games.
The NUI Galway lecturer finished third in his heat, third again in the semis before producing his best performance to date to take a creditable sixth in the final. In hand-cycling, Ciara Staunton was well off the pace in the H2-4 road race finishing in 14th spot and sailors John Twomey, Ian Costelloe and Austin O’Carroll remain back in 11th overall after races seven and eight of the sonar class competition.
Katie Morrow saw her hopes of a gold medal disappear in the women’s wheelchair basketball as Great Britain lost to the USA 78-89 in the semi-final. The Kells 16-year-old girl can now look forward to a winner-take-all match on Saturday, probably against the Netherlands, for the bronze medals. On Wednesday night, Seaforde swimmer Bethany Firth added a silver to the two gold medals she has already won in Rio. That has made her Great Britain’s most successful athlete to date at the Games.
The 20-year-old led at the halfway point of the S14 100m Breaststroke final but was overhauled by Spain’s Michelle Alonso Morales who had also beaten Firth in the European championships earlier this year: “I am so pleased to get a personal best in this event and I am over the moon with a silver,” said Firth.
“Those girls I was racing against are specialists in breaststroke so to go against them in my ‘fun’ event was really exciting. I have had to do a lot more events than other swimmers so to get silver, I could not ask for more. I have not had a season’s best in that event this season, so hopefully this is the gala where I get it.”
Firth, who competes in the S14 classes for swimmers with an intellectual disability, still has one of her stronger events, the 200m individual medley, to come tomorrow. Firth clinched the 100m backstroke gold for Ireland in London and a year later went on to win three silver medals at the IPC World Championships in Montreal before switching allegiance to Great Britain.
THE IRISH TODAY
1.30pm: Eoghan Clifford and Colin Lynch (Cycling – C1-3 Road Race)
1.52pm: Ellen Keane (Swimming – S9 100m Back Heats)
2.25pm: Paul Keogan (Athletics – T37 400m final)
5.30pm: Sonar sailors (Sailing – Race 9)
6.10pm: Helen Kearney (Equestrian – Grade 1a freestyle championship)
7pm: Sonar Sailors (Sailing – Race 10)
9.50pm: Ellen Keane (swimming – S9 100m back final*)
*Subject to athletes’ progression