LONDON – It was an electric evening in London as the eyes of the world turned toward the Olympic Stadium for some of the most anticipated events of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. U.S. athletes competed in seven track and field medal events tonight, after a strong showing in the qualifying rounds, and brought home four medals including gold and bronze medals in the men's T52 100m.
“I am so excited,” said Raymond Martin, who prevailed in a men's T52 100m field that included two American teammates. “The 100 is not my best, to be golden is unbelievable.”
Martin crossed the line in 17.02 to win Team USA's first track and field gold of the Games. Competing in his fourth Games, Paul Nitz captured the bronze medal in a time of 17.99. Josh Roberts finished sixth in 18.86.
A trio of Americans, Jim Bob Bizzell, Blake Leeper and Jerome Singleton, were all smiles headed into the men's T44 200m final as flash bulbs popped around the sold out stadium of more than 80,000 spectators. At the exciting finish, Leeper desperately dove across the line. Then he anxiously awaited the official results, which put him third.
The fought race was won by Brazil’s Oliveira Alan Fonteles Cardoso in 21.45 with South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius finishing with a silver medal. Pistorius, who became the first amputee to run at the Olympic Games earlier this summer, ran a 21.52. With a time of 22.46, Leeper opened his first ever Games with a bronze.
“To have missed a medal in one of my favorite events, I would have been crushed,” said Leeper. “I would do anything for it, I dove and it stung a little bit but it was worth it, I got it.”
Singleton finished fifth crossing the line in 23.58 while Bizzell finished eighth in 28.19.
“I want to use tonight to build for the 100,” said Singleton “Watch for me then.”
The men's T44 100m, the most highly anticipated race of the Games, is Sept. 6.
April Holmes, the reigning world and Paralympic record holder in the women's T44 100m final, was the final Team USA athlete competing on Day 4. The race was capped with another diving finish for the Americans as Holmes captured third crossing the line in a season’s best time of 13.33.
"I am just so proud to be on this team," she said. "It was hard to make this U.S. team and to make it, to get to come here and put USA across my chest and win a bronze is truly special.”
Jeff Skiba was first up for Team USA on Sunday, competing in the men’s F44 javelin final. Skiba’s 49.09 finished him in eighth place .
In the men’s T53 400m final, Joshua George finished fifth in a time of 51.14. As a veteran of the Games, George knows how to take this evening and build on it.
"It’s my first event on the track," he said. "I learned from Beijing that you can come back and finish really strong."
George has a busy Games ahead competing in the 200m, 800m, 1500m, marathon and the men's 4x400m relay.
Markeith Price ran a personal best to qualify for his first Paralympic final in the men’s T13 400m. Price finished ninth tonight with a time of 51.98 and after the race simply said “I love the Paralympic Games. It shows everyone that thinks they can’t, they definitely can.”
In the Women’s T53 100m final, Jessica Galli and Anjali Forber-Pratt crossed the line fourth and sixth respectively at 17.42 and 17.67. After the race, Forber-Pratt commented on her approach to London.
“For me, I think having a positive outlook is who I am but it also comes with the territory of being a Paralympian," she said. "As a veteran on the team it’s important for me to be a leader that’s part of what wearing USA means.”
The action continues Monday at Olympic stadium for Team USA.