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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Encouraging signs
by Tony Garrett
BBC Disability Sport Executive

David Weir
David Weir put in some world-class displays in Assen
The Great Britain athletics squad will be buoyed by their results at last week's World Paralympic Athletics Championships in the Dutch city of Assen.

After a poor performance at the Athens Paralympics, hopes of success were not high. However, after an encouraging week, they finished fifth in the medal table with 27 medals - nine gold, nine silver and nine bronze.

The star of the British team, and one of the stars of the event, was wheelchair racer David Weir, who proved he is a class act.

The Londoner has shown already this year that he can handle any distance from 100m right up to the marathon.

In Assen, he was in tremendous form, winning golds in the 100, 400 and 1500m and a silver in the 200m.

South African Oscar Pistorius was another top performer, winning three gold medals and becoming the first amputee runner to break the 50 second barrier in the T44 400m.

After a bad knee injury it was good to see his great rival Marlon Shirley back competing, although the two didn't go head to head in Assen.

Shirley won gold in the long jump and then in the last event of the championship was part of the USA team that set a new world record in the 4x100m relay.

From a British perspective, one of the outstanding races was the T46 800m featuring European and Paralympic champion Danny Crates.

GOLD: Bev Jones (F37 shot), David Gale (F51 discus), Danny Greaves (F44 discus), Danny Crates (T46 800m), Dave Weir (T54 100, 400 & 1500m), Tanni Grey Thompson (T53 200m), Stephen Miller (F32/51 club)
SILVER: Tanni Grey Thompson (T53 800m), Kenny Churchill (F37 javelin), Libby Clegg (T12 200m), Tracey Hinton (T12 800m), David Weir (T54 200m), John McFall (T42 100m) Graeme Ballard (T36 100m), Daniel West (F34 shot, F34 discus)
BRONZE: Hazel Simpson (T36 200m), Tracey Hinton (T12 400m), Tanni Grey Thompson (T53 400m), Shelly Woods (T54 marathon), Ben Rushgrove (T36 200m), Stephen Payton (T38 400m), John McFall (T42 200m), Kim Minett (F40 Shot), Sally Reddin (F54 shot)

The Essex ace held off a strong challenge from the Kenyan Stephen Wambua to win his first World Championship medal and prove there is no substitute for experience at this level.

Despite having a virus that left her below par and affected her training, Dame Tanni Grey Thompson proved she is still a major force in women's wheelchair racing.

She won gold in the 200m and also claimed a silver and bronze, but American duo Jessica Galli (22) and Amanda McGrory (20) are closing the gap on the 11-times Paralympic gold medallist .

Like Tanni, Canada's Chantal Petitclerc, the winner of four golds in Athens, did not have things all her own way.

Another young American, 17-year-old Tatyana McFadden, beat her world record in the 100m.

Although Petitclerc won golds in the T54 200 and 400m, Switzerland's Edith Hunkeler was the dominant figure over the longer distances, winning the 800, 1500 and 5,000m.

With the likes of Canada's Diane Roy, Australian Eliza Stankovic and Britain's Shelly Woods also strong competitors, there should be some cracking races over the next few years.

In the field events, Great Britain once again looked strong, winning four gold medals.

Stephen Miller won his third consecutive World Championship gold in the club while fellow Paralympic champion Danny Greaves was also in winning form in the F44 discus.

It was marvellous to see David Gale win his first gold medal in a major championship in the F51 discus while Beverley Jones, who won Great Britain's first gold in the shot, should continue to develop her talents in the field and also on the track.

Ben Rushgrove
Ben Rushgrove celebrates his T36 200m bronze medal

However, the real plus factor for the management team, headed by recently-appointed senior performance director Tim Jones, was the success of the new generation of British athletes coming through the system.

The team for Assen was selected with a strong emphasis on promoting a new young group of development athletes onto the world stage.

To see 16-year-old Libby Clegg win silver in the T12 200m, sprint newcomers Ben Rushgrove and John McFall both winning medals, 14-year-old Katherine Deal just finishing outside the medals in the T13 400m and personal bests for Cardiff's Nathan Stephens in the F57 shot and discus bodes well for the future.

But with two years to go before Beijing, China signalled once again that they will be strong hosts, topping the medals table with a haul of 55, including 22 golds.

Their strength has been in cerebral palsy and amputee field events, but we saw a change in Assen and they are starting to make more of an impact in wheelchair racing.

If they continue to improve over the next two years, they will dominate Paralympic sport.

Woods battles to marathon bronze
10 Sep 06 |  Disability Sport
Crates leads superb day for GB
09 Sep 06 |  Disability Sport
Weir & Grey Thompson strike gold
08 Sep 06 |  Disability Sport
Weir leads medal haul for Britain
06 Sep 06 |  Disability Sport
Weir and Greaves add to GB tally
05 Sep 06 |  Disability Sport
Simpson adds bronze to GB tally
04 Sep 06 |  Disability Sport
British duo claim world victories
03 Sep 06 |  Disability Sport


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