Libby achieves golden sprint double

A delighted Libby Clegg with her T11 200m gold medal (picture by onEdition)
A delighted Libby Clegg with her T11 200m gold medal (picture by onEdition)

Borders runner Libby Clegg accomplished her ambition of doulbe Paralympic gold late last night in Rio as she won the T11 200 metres final.

Libby, from Newcastleton, clocked a time of 24.51 seconds with her guided runner, Chris Clarke, to finish well ahead of closest rival, China’s Liu Cuong, and create a new Paralympic record.

Contentious issues had dogged Libby on her way to Friday’s T11 100 metres final – in which she also won gold. There was a protest that she’d been illegally ‘helped’ by Chris in the semi-final, but her appeal against claim was upheld.

And there was more controversy at the beginning of the 200m final, when the hot home favourite and fastest qualifier, 37-year-old Brazilian, Terezinha Guilhermina, was disqualified for a false start.

But Libby recovered her composure and concentration and never looked under threat as she doubled her Rio 2016 gold medal tally.

The delighted 26-year-old had said before the Games that she’d love to adda gold to a pair of silvers she collected at Beijing 2008 and London four years ago.

Libby was reclassified as a T11 athlete after a decline in her sight – she has a condition known as Stargardt’s macular dystrophy and has just slight peripheral vision in her left eye only. This meant she now has to compete blindfolded, and she only did so for the first time in a race in July.

She had around £20,000 of Lottery funding axed after missing last year’s IPC World Championships because of injury and, in February this year, she switched guides, hooking up with Chris Clarke.

After the medal presentation ceremony, Libby told televisoin viewers she had “massively surprised herself” with the success so soon after donning the blindfold.

“If you had asked me nine or 10 months ago if this was going to happen, I probably would have told you it wasn’t possible,” she said.

Libby said she was a bit “daunted” about using a blindfold but her guide and her coaching staff had helped her enormously, while she had a really good training group.

“We enjoy running and we enjoy training, so it’s a great atmosphere,” she added.

Chris Clarke described Libby as “inspirational”, adding: “Seeing what she’s gone through in the past year and to be part of that journey – it just inspires me to do better in my career . I’m just glad to be a part of it. It’s an absolute adventure - it has been so far.”

Libby’s next target is the 2017 World Championships in London, while her younger brother Stephen is competing later today (Wednesday) in the swimming events at Rio.