London Spy

The greatest night in GB sport?

On the night that Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah won their three gold medals, many wondered whether there would be another night in British sport quite like it.

The Olympic Stadium hummed with anticipation then erupted in celebration — the noise grew louder with every new success.

It was the high point of a Games which had delivered on an unprecedented scale.

But just a month on, in the same venue, it might just have been eclipsed at the Paralympics.

It began on Thursday when Hannah Cockroft, the sprint sensation, ripped up the track to win the T34 200m final and add gold to her 100m title.

Later on, it was David Weir's turn. Weir may yet add the marathon to his burgeoning list of gold medals in London, but if he even if he does not, he has a minimum of three, winning the T54 800m to go with his 1500m and 5000m titles.

There had barely been time to rearrange the starting blocks before the next event — possibly the most anticipated Paralympics race in history — the T44 100m.

Who was the world's fastest Paralympian? It was a race that had all the heavyweights — South Africa's Oscar Pistorius — the newly-crowned 200m champion Alan Oliveira, and some powerful Americans. And the one who trumped them all was a 19-year-old from Britain — Jonnie Peacock.

The Paralympics are not the Olympics — but they boast some participants whose stories, commitment, and performances are every bit as dramatic and impressive as the men and women who have come first — perhaps more impressive, given the circumstances in which the athletes take up competition.

The feats of Peacock, Weir, Cockroft and others are catching the eye.

"The Paralympics is more exciting than the Olympics," said an 11-year-old girl called Lola, reported by the Guardian. "The ability and perseverance that the disabled athletes show encourages everyone."

And she has a point. Able-bodied viewers should be inspired — there are participants with obvious reasons not to play sport competing at the highest level — anyone, then, should be able to get involved on some level.

Where the Paralympics has sometimes struggled is in getting the same billing as the Olympics — not any more.

An audience of 6.3m tuned in last night to catch some of the competition. Night by night, those numbers are roaring upwards — that eclipsed the previous Paralympics high of 4.4m for the 200m final on Sunday.

So the events had a sense of occasion — a packed house, a significant television audience, offered high-level sport with illustrious names, records broken, thrilling outcomes, and it cannot have failed to inspire those who saw it.

It is hard, then, to separate the Olympic and Paralympic spectacles. Except in one way.

Ennis, Farah and Rutherford combined to win three golds for Team GB.

In addition to the wins from Cockroft, Weir and Peacock, there was a silver for Dan Greaves in the F44 discus, and bronzes on track for Ben Rushgrove, Paul Blake and Ola Abidogu. It will be hard for any night to eclipse that medal haul.

Is the Paralympics an equal spectacle to the Olympics these days? Do you prefer it to the Olympics? Or can the Olympics not be beaten? Have your say below!

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London Spy is the place to keep you informed on all the news in and around the 2012 Olympics. From torch tours to ticket touts, from Greco Roman wrestling to Stratford International maintenance, from Lord Coe to Wenlock and Mandeville, we will have all the slightly left field stories covered.


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