GB competitors hoping for home boost


British athletes on Monday said that they were hoping for a home boost to spur them to medal success at the Paralympics, but were tight-lipped as to whether they could rival powerful China for top spot. Many of Britain’s non-disabled Olympic medallists credited strong home support for contributing to winning places on the podium, including distance king Mo Farah, who was roared to victory in the 5,000m and 10,000m double. ParalympicsGB said they expected a similar lift from the crowds, amid expectations that the 11-day competition, which starts on Wednesday, will be an unprecedented sell-out.
“I handle pressure very well. Every time I enter the London Marathon, I’m expected to win,” wheelchair racer David Weir, who won the T54 800m and 1,500m in Beijing, told a news conference. “But Mo Farah’s win just inspired me to train harder and I just want to go out there and race. I’m just looking forward to it.” Swimmer Ellie Simmonds, gold medallist at the S6 100m and 400m four years ago at the age of just 13, added: “I’m really looking forward to competing, having family and friends there. I’m very excited.”
Five-a-side football captain Dave Clarke said that he was looking to draw inspiration from the “positive energy and anticipation” surrounding the Games.
“It’s going to be an amazing environment to play football in,” he added.
Britain has been set a target of 103 medals in London, one more than in Beijing, when they came second in the overall medal table behind China, who won 211, including 89 gold.
ParalympicsGB’s chef de mission Craig Hunter said the Games were set to be “the most competitive yet, with China our greatest rival and enormous competition from Ukraine, Brazil, the USA and others”.
China — whose team has been cut drastically from Beijing, with about half of the line-up debutants — have been playing down their chances this time round.
Jia Yong, vice president of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, told AFP this week that they only expected to be in the top three, amid concern that athletes might face a tough time competing away from home.