09 September 2016
She’s the 17-year-old known as ‘Lucky’, but Lakeisha Patterson took luck out of the equation with an attacking swim to claim Australia’s first gold medal of the Rio Paralympic Games.
Australia claimed one gold, a silver and two bronze medals on the opening day of competition in Rio, across swimming, cycling and athletics.
But Patterson’s performance shone brightest, breaking the 400m world record and defeating defending champion Jessica Long, of the USA, by more than seven seconds.
Patterson took an early advantage and increasing her lead at every turn, finishing in 4.40.33 – shaving 0.11 seconds off the world record.
“It was pretty surreal really,” Patterson, who has cerebral palsy said. “knew I had to attack and go out hard and keep fighting for it, and I knew [Long] was right behind me, so I just had to keep going forward.”
Patterson, from Queensland, is completing in six individual events in Rio.
Earlier, Canberra cyclist Sue Powell had claimed Australia’s first medal with silver in the C4 3000m individual pursuit.
Powell, 49, was attempting to defend her Paralympic title, but couldn’t keep pace with American and world champion Shawn Morelli. Powel bettered her Paralympic record in qualifying, but Morelli dominated the medal event and won by five seconds.
“I was hoping to go a bit faster again and do a PB (personal best) and give her a crack but it didn’t quite come off,” Powell said. “But I gave it everything I had so can’t ask more than that.
Powell will contest the 500m time trial and team sprint on the track in coming days before switching to her road bike for the time trial and road race.
In Track and field, Angie Ballard and Carlee Beattie each snared bronze.
Ballard finished fast in the 100m T53 wheelchair class, but clocked 16.59seconds and couldn’t surpass China’s Huang Lisha (16.28) and Zhou Hongzhuan (16.51s).
“It wasn’t a perfect race so I would have liked to have put it together better,” Ballard said. “We were all a bit shaky on the line and I must admit I thought the starter would call us back but he said ‘Go’. So I missed the start which was quite disappointing for me because the rest of the race was really good.”
Beattie claimed bronze in the long jump T47 class for arm amputees, having taken silver in 2012.