31 December 2018

2018 in review: A magnificent 12 months for GB's para stars

Gold medals galore, new world records and Grand Slam titles - there was certainly no shortage of memorable moments from ParalympicsGB athletes across a whole host of summer sports in 2018.

In a year in which the UK experienced one of the hottest summers on record, our superstars kept their cool when it mattered to deliver on the international stage in major events around the world.

From GB’s men creating history at the Wheelchair Basketball World Championships to incredible performances on the track, in the pool and on the tennis court, it really has been a sensational year.

And, with thoughts now turning to the New Year and Tokyo 2020 qualification, we’ve taken a look back at some of the highlights from 2018 before previewing what’s to come next year.

Alice Tai enjoyed a magnificent Commonwealth Games

The first major event of the year saw a host of home-nation stars battle it out on the Gold Coast in the Commonwealth Games, with GB’s best enjoying plenty of success Down Under.

Alice Tai led the way in the pool by winning her first major individual gold in the S9 100m backstroke, adding to her Paralympic, World and European relay titles.

Paralympic champion Ellie Robinson also topped the podium, storming to S7 50m butterfly gold, while Thomas Hamer finished first in the men’s S14 200m freestyle.

Hamer followed up his Commonwealth triumph later in the year by setting a new world record as he claimed a sensational gold at the World Para-swimming European Championships.

Great Britain ultimately finished with 20 gold and 55 overall medals in Dublin, with Hannah Russell, Maisie Summers-Newton, Bethany Firth, Scott Quin and Louise Fiddes also winning gold.

Neil Fachie and Matt Rotherham celebrate Commonwealth gold

The success also continued away from the pool in Australia as Paralympians Joe Townsend and Jade Jones secured an English double as paratriathlon made its debut at the Commonwealth Games.

Paracyclists Sophie Thornhill and Helen Scott and Neil Fachie and Matt Rotherham also triumphed in the velodrome as they left Australia with two gold medals apiece.

Arguably the highlight of the Commonwealth Games, though, was the dramatic gold medal for Hollie Arnold, with the Paralympic champion setting a new world record in the F46 javelin.

Meanwhile, Olivia Breen leapt to victory in the women’s T38 long jump final with a Commonwealth Games record, while Sophie Hahn sprinted to victory in the T38 100m.

Sophie Hahn smashed her own T38 200m world record at the London Anniversary Games

Hahn continued her imperious form at the London Anniversary Games, where she set a new world record in the T38 200m final, smashing her own previous best, en route to victory.

She was not alone in breaking new ground as Kare Adenegan delivered one of the performances of the year as she defeated compatriot and Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft.

However, the 17-year-old did not just win gold at the T34 100m, she also clocked a time of 16.80 seconds to smash her idol’s previous world record from Rio 2016 by 0.38s.

“I looked at the sign and I saw it said world record and I said ‘that’s crazy’,” said Adenegan, who repeated the feat in Berlin to claim European gold ahead of Cockroft again.

British Athletics named a 52-strong team for the World Para Athletics European Championships in August and finished runners-up in the medal table behind Poland with 50 in total.

Kare Adenegan secured a memorable T34 100m gold and world record as she beat Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft in the final at the London Anniversary Games

That medal rush included a remarkable 20 golds, with three of those secured by Hahn, who won the T38 100m and 200m sprint titles before completing the hat-trick in the 4x100m relay.

Aled Davies was another star at the European Championships, winning both the F63 shot put and discus, while Thomas Young also completed the double in the T38 100m and 200m.

Vanessa Wallace (F34 shot put), Arnold (F46 javelin), Richard Whitehead (T61 200m), Sabrina Fortune (F20 shot put) and Maria Lyle (T35 100m) were also among the gold medallists in Berlin.

Away from the track, six-time Paralympic gold medallist David Weir rode to his eighth Virgin Money London Marathon title, clocking 1:13:15 in searing temperatures in the capital.

Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett celebrate their Wimbledon success

Elsewhere, while the first two Grand Slams of the year did not quite live up to expectations, Great Britain’s wheelchair tennis stars came to the fore in the second half of the year.

Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid bounced back from their disappointments at the Australian Open and the French Open to clinch a third success Wimbledon wheelchair men’s doubles title.

It was Hewett’s fourth Grand Slam doubles title overall alongside Reid, who took his tally to eight as well as his individual triumphs at Wimbledon and the Australian Open in 2016.

“I think it’s a really exciting time for the sport at the moment, especially at the top of the game,” he said. “The slams have done a lot for wheelchair tennis and it’s getting better.”

They were not the only Brits to prosper at SW19, with Andy Lapthorne realising his lifelong dream by teaming up with David Wagner to win the first quads wheelchair doubles match at Wimbledon.

Hewett and Reid went on to retain their US Open doubles title in September, while Lapthorne and American partner Wagner added the quads doubles title to their collection.

Andy Lapthorne (right) with American David Wagner won the quad doubles title at SW19

There was still more to come for Hewett, though, who also won the US Open men’s singles wheelchair title for the first time by beating Japan’s Shingo Kunieda on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Another highlight of the year saw Great Britain’s men make history as they secured their first ever Wheelchair Basketball World Championship title with a 79-62 victory in Hamburg.

Harry Brown and George Bates racked up 17 points apiece as Philip Pratt’s 12 assists helped the GB team to a famous triumph against the six-time Paralympic champions.

The women’s team just missed out on matching the feat, but still came away with an historic podium finish after claiming silver behind the Netherlands, who prevailed 56-40 in the final.

Meanwhile, Dame Sarah Storey starred at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships, winning gold in the C5 road race and the time trial on a medal-laden weekend for Britain.

Dame Sarah Storey was in typically ruthless form at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships

The victories for Great Britain’s most successful female Paralympian were her 30th and 31st world titles, while Katie Toft also claimed double gold in the C1 road race and time trial.

On the water, Emma Wiggs won her seventh Paracanoe World Championship title in a year in which she also bagged double gold at the World Cup in Szeged and European glory in Belgrade.

Grace Clough once again proved a master of her class as she guided British Rowing to an eighth PR3 mixed coxed four success at the World Rowing Championships in Polvdiv.

Meanwhile, three-time Paralympian Lauren Steadman was crowned paratriathlon world champion after clinching PTS5 gold, with Hannah Moore and David Ellis also victorious on the Gold Coast.

Steadman went on to wow the nation with her sterling performances on the dance floor, just missing out on the Strictly Come Dancing final with partner AJ Pritchard.

David Smith claimed individual BC1 gold at the World Boccia Championships in Liverpool

Elsewhere, two-time Paralympic champion David Smith led the way for Britain as the World Boccia Championships came to Liverpool in August.

Smith was superb throughout the as he sealed the individual BC1 crown by defeating Kai Sun of China 7-2 at the city’s Exhibition Centre.

“Winning here means everything,” a delighted Smith said after his triumph. “The crowd have been awesome. I’ve really enjoyed it - the layout is spectacular.

“This is how Boccia be should be done and I hope the rest of the world take note.”

Ross Wilson sealed his first-ever World Para Table Tennis Championships title

As the year neared its end, the medals kept coming thick and fast - most notably from Sophie Wells, who achieved double para-dressage gold at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon.

Ross Wilson also conquered the world as he claimed his first-ever World Para Table Tennis Championships title with a stunning win over Paralympic champion Zhao Shuai.

The 23-year-old also grabbed gold at the Commonwealth Games in April and following his success on the world stage he quickly turned his attention to Tokyo 2020.

“It is just about pushing on now.” he said. “It has been an amazing year from me with the Commonwealths and now this - I’m going for Tokyo now and that is my main goal.”

He was not the only one thinking about the upcoming Paralympic Games, with many athletes beginning to look ahead as they prepare for an important year of qualifying in 2019.

Among those to keep an eye on will be Kadeena Cox, who got the better of fellow Rio Paralympic gold medallist Storey to win gold at the Track World Cup in London in the C4-5 500m time trial.

With para-badminton set to make its debut in Tokyo, it will certainly be a big year for GB’s stars as they look to seal their place in the team after enjoying success on the European stage in 2018.

Jack Shephard, Rachel Choong and Martin Rooke led the charge as Britain racked up seven gold medals at the European Para-Badminton Championships in Rodez, France in November.

The Para-Badminton World Championships will be just one of many events to watch out for in 2019, with archery, swimming, athletics and cycling all taking to the world stage next year.

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