2008 PARALYMPIC GAMES: Five More Medals for U.S. in Track & Field; Gottwald, Campbell, McGrory, Galli and George Add to Medal Count
BEIJING, China - After adding two silver medals to the U.S. Team's overall count this morning, it added five more this evening in the form of gold, three silver and a bronze.
Peter Gottwald Jr. (West Chester, Pa.) got the evening's medal run started on the track in the men's 800m final (T13). Gottwald led the pack through the first 600m of the race, when Abdelillah Mame from Morocco challenged him heading into the last turn - taking the lead. Gottwald held on down the straightaway for the silver medal finish in 1:55.49.
"I just wanted to go for it and I did," said Gottwald. "The last 200 I was hurting, but I kept going, pushed myself and held on for the silver. I was about a second and a half off my personal best, but I didn't care about the time - only the medal!"
In the women's 800m final (T53), the nail biter of the evening, Jessica Galli (Savoy, Ill./Hillsborough, N.J.) battled to the line in the last 100m against China's Hongzhuan Zhou. Both athletes finished in 1:57.25, but after a photo finish review by officials, Zhou was deemed the gold medal winner, and Galli claimed the silver.
"We had plans on what we wanted to do strategically in this race, but it didn't happen," said Galli. "We lost control early and had to regain position, so heading into the final lap I was sprinting behind Zhou. I had some distance to make up on the final turn, so I pounded it home."
Amanda McGrory (Champaign, Ill./Kennett Square, Pa.) helped pack the two-three punch for USA by winning bronze, finishing the 800m in 1:57.31.
"As far as exciting finishes go - I don't think you can ask for anything better than that," remarked McGrory when asked about the race.
Cheri Blauwet (Palo Alto, Calif.), gold medalist in the 800m in Athens, came in fourth in 1:58.38.
In the men's 800m final (T53) Joshua George (Champaign, Ill.) won silver with a time of 1:37.09 behind Huzhao Li of China, who set a new world record time of 1:36.30. George said his win really boiled down to a combination of finding his comfort zone on the track and a little bit of luck.
"They say ‘you should never give up lane one' and the guy in front [Hong Suk-Man/Korea] gave it up, so that helped me to get the silver medal," said George. "But maybe if I hadn't been boxed in, I could have won the thing; it's somewhat bittersweet."
The sole gold medal of the day was won in the men's discus (F44) by now two-time gold medalist Jeremy Campbell (Chula Vista, Calif./Perryton, Texas). Campbell solidified his first place standing after a Herculean effort; he moved from fourth position to first on his final throw of the night with a 55.08m pitch and 1019 points, securing the gold.
"I knew in warm-up that I had some really good throws and felt good," said Campbell. "I slowed it down that last throw and everything just came together."
Jeff Skiba (Chula Vista, Calif./Sammamish, Wash.) finished in sixth place with a best throw of 48.72m and 901 points.
In the men's shot put (F55/56) Iraq war veteran Scott Winkler (Grovetown, Ga.) finished in fifth place, setting a new personal best - 11.27m and 995 points.
"It was breathtaking coming out of that tunnel and out on to the field in front of all those people," said Winkler. "I gave it 110% out there. I'm coming back... 2012 - I'll be there."
Jill Kennedy (Charlottesville, Va.) finished eighth in the women's shot put (F40) with a best distance of 6.39m. After competition she remarked on what it was like to compete before the thousands of fans at the Bird's Nest.
"It's the most energized crowd I've ever seen in a stadium," said Kennedy. "To have a Chinese athlete in our event really put more of a spotlight on it, and it was a real charge to be down there while the crowd was going crazy like that."
In the women's 100m final (T52), Kerri Morgan (St. Louis, Mo.), Mallerie Badgett (Oxford, Ala.) and Cheryl Leitner (Toms River, N.J.) finished in fifth (21.56), sixth (24.01) and seventh (24.40), respectively.
The men's 4x100m relay team (T11-13) comprised of Nelacey Porter (Chula Vista, Calif./Portland, Ore.), Royal Mitchell (Chula Vista, Calif./Ridgeland, S.C.), Elexis Gillette (Raleigh, N.C.) and Josiah Jamison (Chula Vista, Calif./Vance, S.C.) failed to advance to the semifinals after Jamison, the anchor in the race, got hung up with a hamstring injury while sprinting down the straightaway.
Competition Schedule - Tuesday, September 16
9:05 Men's shot put (F53/54)/final - Scot Severn (Caro, Mich.), Carlos Leon (Birmingham, Ala./N. Lauderdale, Fla.)
9:10 Men's Long Jump (F42/44)/final - Jeremy Campbell (Chula Vista, Calif./Perryton, Texas), Casey Tibbs (San Diego, Calif.), Jeff Skiba (Chula Vista, Calif./Sammamish, Wash.)
9:30 Men's Discus (F42)/final - Matt Brown (Idalou, Texas)
10:05 Men's 200m (T12)/final - Josiah Jamison (Chula Vista, Calif./Vance, S.C.)
11:51 Men's 100m (T53)/prelim - Josh George (Champaign, Ill.)
17:48 Men's 100m (T53)/final
19:19 Women's 1500m (T54)/final
19:45 Men's 4x100m Relay (T42-46)/final
20:18 Women's 4x100m Relay (T53/54)/final
20:57 Men's 400m (T44)/final
For complete track & field competition results, visit http://results.beijing2008.cn/WRMP/ENG/Schedule/AT.shtml.
For more information or to arrange an athlete interview, please contact Beth Bourgeois at 139-1075-4847 (if calling from the U.S., dial 011 86 plus the local number).