New national record for cyclists at Paralympic Games

The Irish cyclists posted two national records in Beijing’s Laoshan Veldrome on the opening day at the 13th Paralympic Games.

Sydney gold medalist Gay Shelly held the honour of being the first Irish athlete into action when he opened his account in his pool of the individual Boccia competition with a 5-2 win over Brock Richardson of Canada. Shelly’s team mates; Bobbie Connolly, Padraic Moran and Tom Leahy, also started their campaigns, while teenage swimmer Ellen Keane raced in the Water Cube, and Eimear Breathnach featured in the individual table tennis competition.

First time Paralympian Enda Smyth from Santry finished seventh in the 3km Individual Pursuit (CP4 class) smashing his own Irish record by 2.674 seconds to lay down a new mark of 3:55.919. Tandem pair Michael Delaney with sighted pilot rider David Peelo (B & VI 1-3 class) followed, and recorded a thirteenth place in the 4km Individual Pursuit.

The second Irish record (1:16.208) of the day came from Catherine Walsh with sighted pilot rider Joanna Hickey (B & VI class) in the final of the women’s 1km time trial. The duo took 2.318 seconds off their previous best, in a final where Great Britian took gold in world record time (1:09.066).

Afterwards Irish cycling manager Denis Toomey said: “I am over the moon with the results, two Irish records is fantastic and we are on schedule with what we planned. While I am disappointed for Michael and David I expect they will be back on form tomorrow.”

Following Gay Shelly’s opening win Tom Leahy entered the fray in the individual Boccia competition but suffered defeat to Risa Kainuma of Japan (2-4). Boccia is a form of bowls for athletes with severe physical disabilities, and the four Irish representatives are competing in the individual and team competition at these Games.

Dubliner Bobbie Connolly followed in her first pool match but was bettered by her Chinese opponent; Cao, in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, losing out 5-0. The only member of the Irish boccia team to debut at these Games; Bray athlete Padraic Moran produced the result of the day defeating his British opponent and world number two David Smith by a whopping 9-0.

Afterwards in the mixed zone Moran said: “I focused on every shot and didn’t let the occasion get to me. I treated it like a training match. A couple of balls went wonky in the first end but I didn’t let that get to me. I know I have the ability but to beat him by that much was just unbelievable. Every shot I knew I could make it. If you’re given an opportunity you have to take it.”

There was little rest for the Irish foursome as they faced into their second pool matches in the afternoon session. Shelly took his best form with him and in a thrilling contest defeated Ibarbure of Argentina 3-2 (BC1 class) to head into tomorrow’s final two pool matches in good shape.

Cork’s Tom Leahy (BC2 class) lost out 5-1 to Bentley of Great Britain leaving himself with a lot to do if he is to progress to the quarter-finals. Bobbie Connolly (BC2 class) reversed her morning result to beat Leglice of Argentina 4-3 ahead of the final pool stages tomorrow. Moran (BC1 class) was last of the four out and came out the wrong side of a 4-2 result against Marques of Portugal.

Across the Olympic plaza in the infamous Water Cube Clontarf’s Ellen Keane had to endure unwelcome disruption ahead of her heat of the 100m Butterfly (S9 Class) when the programme was pushed back by over an hour in the call room, and followed by starting difficulties.

Despite the distraction the teenager still got to within 0.34seconds of her best ever time in the event, finishing in sixth place. This was however not enough to progress the final. Keane will race in her favoured event; the 100m breaststroke on Tuesday.

The final Irish competitor on day one was Eimear Breathnach in the individual table tennis event. In this her Paralympic debut the Ballinteer native lost out to Pushpasheva of Russia by three sets to one.

Day two is set to be an even busier day for the Irish with fifteen athletes and the 7-a-side football team set to compete. The footballers will play their first group match against Iran at lunchtime local time tomorrow. Although they missed out catching the Irish win over Georgia yesterday due to the time difference they were delighted to receive letters of support this week from Giovanni Trapatonni, Robbie Keane and Kevin Kilbane.

In Boccia the four are out again in their final pool matches and should they progress they will also see quarter-final action. In Hong-Kong Dressage rider Eilish Byrne will compete in the Championship Grade 2 event. First time Paralympic cyclist Cathal Miller will seek to reach the final of the 4km Individual Pursuit on the track, racing in the qualification in the morning, with the final scheduled for the afternoon. Michael Delaney and David Peelo race again; this time in the 1km time trial final.

Eimear Breathnach will play her second table tennis match with Kathleen Reynolds playing her first. Ireland’s sailors; John Twoomey and Amy Kelehan in the Skud class, and Paul McCarthy, Paul Ryan and Richard Whealey in the Sonar will begin their campaigns of eleven races each tomorrow in Qingdao.

In the evening the Athletics programme begins in the Bird’s Nest stadium with two of the Irish throwers in action. World Championship bronze medalist Garrett Culliton goes in his discus competition hoping to make the final, with Offaly’s Eoin Cleare in the Shot Putt (F32 class).

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