Whitehead storms to gold

  • Last Updated: September 1 2012, 15:05 BST

Richard Whitehead, the British Blade Runner, paid an emotional tribute to the inspirations behind his stunning Paralympic gold medal as he dedicated his achievement to Great Britain.

Richard Whitehead: Celebrates another remarkable achievement

The double above-the-knee amputee, the marathon world record holder, revealed a friend who died of cancer in 2005 was on his mind as he roared to the 200 metres title, destroying his own world record in the process.

The 36-year-old has completed 24 marathons since 2004 after being inspired to take up the challenge by Simon Mellows, who lost his battle with cancer the following year.

And his friend's widow and children were in a packed Olympic Stadium on Saturday to cheer him to victory in 24.38 seconds to take the T42 category title by a huge margin.

The Nottingham athlete was well down at halfway, but came storming through down the home straight, winning by more than a second in a high-quality race in which every single competitor ran at least a personal best.

"I wanted to show that Olympic and Paralympic athletes are on the same platform now," he said.

"We all perform to our highest ability and both Paralympic and Olympic athletes are inspiring a generation and leaving a legacy for years to come.

"For me that race was not for Richard Whitehead or for anybody else, but the nation, I'm very patriotic, that was for Great Britain."

Whitehead has incredibly run two hours 42 minutes 54 seconds for the distance, but International Paralympic Committee regulations prevented him from competing alongside arm amputees in the T46 marathon in the capital, with his attempt to challenge the rule at the Court of Arbitration for Sport last year failing.

He was greeted by a huge roar when introduced to the crowd before a faulty start added to the tension.

But there was no stopping the born barrier-breaker when the race got under way.

He added: "I always think about things that are really important to me, my friend Simon Mellows who died in 2005 who inspired me to run so many great marathons.

"He was the person that was bringing me round that bend and through the straight. I looked up to the sky and just thanked him for being at the start of my journey.

"He lost his leg due to sarcoma cancer. He had secondary sarcoma and then died.

"To see the kind of fight that he went through with a young family basically set a seed in my head about what sport's all about.

"He's somebody that I'll always remember and always take to the start line whether it's a marathon or 200m."

Whitehead played alongside Mellows for the Nottinghamshire Disabled Cricket Club and for the England development team.

He added: "He was an amazing guy, 6ft 7in, a guy that could hit the ball a mile, someone that inspired me. We used to be little and large when we were at bat.

"His widow is here today with her two kids and it is just amazing, I know they will be welling up now. They know how important a contribution he has made to me."

Whitehead went to celebrate with his parents and fiancee Valerie Davies after his victory, revealing the pair were expecting their first child in January and were getting married next year.

"My mum and dad have never seen me on this kind of stage," he said.

"(The pregnancy) is obviously something that you've got to try and keep inside because if you let that go with 50m to go all the tears come and I was fighting those back toward the end. Everybody that's supported me in the 36 years of my life, that was for them.

"Richard Whitehead just picks up the medal, the performance was for those guys."

Whitehead's run sparked a Great Britain medal rush with three bronzes following in quick succession.

Gemma Prescott was third in the F31/32/51 club throw, throwing a new European record of 20.50 metres, equating to 1015 points.

Prescott said: "I saw Richard's race, I was right track side for that. It lifted me."

Team-mates Josie Pearson and Maxine Moore were fifth and 12th respectively, while Ireland's Catherine O'Neill was fourth.

Robin Womack celebrated success in the F54/55/56 shot put, while Claire Williams added a fourth medal in the F11/12 discus which saw Ireland's Ailish Dunne finish 13th.

Womack said: "Last night my room-mate Aled Davies had his shot putt bronze and I had it round my neck. I thought 'I want this medal'."

Libby Clegg set a new world record in the first round of the T12 100m, but it was then broken twice in barely 15 minutes.

The silver medallist from Beijing, who is registered blind and was running with guide runner Mikail Huggins, clocked 12.17s to win her heat, but by the end of the morning the mark stood at 11.91.

Tracey Hinton qualified for the T11 200m final, as did Hazel Robson in the T36 200m and Olivia Breen in the T38 100m.