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Gray and Thompson claim silver to beat Beijing’s 12

06 Sep 2012
Gray and Thompson claim silver to beat Beijing’s 12

Southland tandem cyclists Philippa Gray and Laura Thompson were as surprised as anyone to learn they now own the full set of Paralympic medals, claiming silver in the individual B time trail.

The pair switched from the velodrome to pound the pavement at Brands Hatch raceway and took the chequered flag in today’s 24 km race in a time of 35:07.68 just zero point five seconds behind the crew from the Netherlands who grabbed gold.

The time trial has also been the main focus for the Dutch crew who did not challenge any events on the track.

“We got held up on that first race,” said Thompson as the emerged from the bike, absolutely spent from the gruelling rollercoaster style track, “we haven’t got it.” But in fact they had, as no other riders who were left on the course could manage a sub 35 minute ride under the blazing hot sun.

Gray explained that the duo had been focusing so heavily on their track events that they had only completed eight rides on the road together prior to coming to the London Paralympic games. “It was nasty, this hasn’t been an event we’ve trained for, and it’s a bit of a bonus.”

The 3 laps of the track never allowed the girls to settle into much of a rhythm, but as Gray, who gave up rowing to try cycling reveals, there was plenty of motivation coming from coach Brendon Cameron in the car behind, the course was very up and down and too undulating to allow the riders to settle into a solid pattern, but Brendon kept screaming at the girls ‘you’ve got 12 seconds, give me 5 seconds, keep going.’

Today’s medal adds to the gold and the bronze the girls won at the Velodrome in the individual B pursuit and B 1km time trial earlier in the Games and take New Zealand's tally to 13 beating their 12 medal bag four years ago.

Taranaki’s Nathan Smith found the going a “little lumpy” on the Brands Hatch motor circuit during his C3 individual time trial, finishing 11th out of the 14 riders who were contesting the medals.

Smith, who is a leg amputee, struggled to maintain his momentum up the steeper parts of the course and lost time without the ability to rise out of his saddle and push the required power into his pedals.

“On a flatter track I’m a real contender but here, with these hills I just couldn’t get out of the saddle to keep it going,” explained the father of two. Smith’s final chance at a medal in London is in the men’s time trial tomorrow, where he suggested he may be forced to show his cards early in the race if he’s to be in with a chance at the finish. “Same again really, I can’t hang with the sprinters when I can’t get out of the saddle, if it comes down to a sprint, so I’ll just have to go for it. It’s going to hurt making a break on this course too, but I guess it’s my last race so I’ll be going for it.”

This will also double as Smith’s international swan song. “I’m definitely not going to Rio, I owe my boss a fair few hours and have quite a bit of time to make up with the kid’s and Crystal, my wife.”

Northland’s Fiona Southorn wasn’t rewarded for riding the best she’s ever done on a steep track either, finishing just outside the medals in 5th in a time of 26 minutes flat on the 16 km course.

Southorn’s little frame maintained an average speed of 36.90 kilometres throughout the race, one she felt couldn’t have gone any better, “I’m stuffed! I had a great ride and couldn’t have given any more, my gear changes were spot on and my corners were good, and even my hill climbs were spot on.”

Southorn will also compete in the road race tomorrow, but admitted her focus had been on the velodrome and the time trial, so joked, “I’d be lost, I think, if you find me up on the dais.”

Sue Reid made her first appearance at the London games in the H3 time trial finishing nearly 2 minutes off the podium in 4th.

The hand cyclist from Ngatea on the Hauraki Plains put in a gutsy effort, on the twisty turning track, but couldn’t quite get the power in the uphill she so dearly hoped for.

Chris Ross finished 12th in his C5 time trial in 36:17.18.

New Zealand's sailors didn't have the best of days in Weymouth, Paul Francis in the 2.4r finished 14th and 10th while Tim Dempsey and Jan Apel in the SKUD bagged a 9th and a 10th.

- Paralympics New Zealand


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