Michael Gallagher has defended his Beijing pursuit crown and slashed a massive seven seconds off his own world record to claim Australia's fourth track cycling gold medal at the Paralympic Games in London while Jayme Paris has grabbed bronze in her pet event.
Gallagher, the 33 year old reigning world champion, went in to the event as a medal favourite having five pursuit world titles to his name and owning the world record time of 4:37.230 for the C5 men's four kilometre.
In qualifying his main rivals pulled out big rides and none was bigger than that of British amputee Jon-Allan Butterworth who lowered Gallagher's record by more than two seconds. China's Xinyang Liu then clocked 4:35.386.
"As soon as that (record) went I could feel the adrenalin start to go through my body," said Gallagher who was in the last of the six qualifying heats. "It was two seconds faster than I'd ever gone."
But that was about to change as he averaged 53km/h to cover the 16 laps at a blistering pace to reclaim the world record in 4:30.012 and qualify for a gold medal showdown with Butterworth.
"I knew my form was great in training and that I was capable of taking a couple of seconds off the world record but I never thought seven seconds," he said. "I think the extra adrenalin and the motivation when that went really got me up to higher speed in the qualifier and held it together."
The crowd also helped motivate him although Butterworth later confided he was a little miffed they had cheered so loud for the Australian in the qualifying ride.
"The commentator spurs them on when you're on world record pace and they're a great crowd," said Gallagher who was born in Scotland and emigrated with his parents, five sisters and brother to Australia when he was four years old. "The difference from Beijing is there are probably more cycling fans and they know a good ride when they see one and they cheer. They're a very fair crowd."
Since Butterworth was five seconds slower in qualifying the Brit chose to take it out fast in the final in the hope he could either overtake Gallagher of at least establish a solid lead. By the midway mark he was more than a second up at which point Head Coach, Peter Day, called on Gallagher to up the pace.
"I prefer not to (come from behind) but he just went out so fast and Peter just kept telling me to lift and I was hoping he would slow up because I was giving it everything I had," said Gallagher. "I could tell with Pete Day and his mannerisms on the sideline that he was getting a bit anxious and I could tell I was a bit behind at that stage and had to find a little bit."
He wrenched back the lead two laps later and then held his rhythm to finish in a time of 4:35.297 while Butterworth faded to cross the line in 4:39.586.
"I'm still buzzing from it and just happy to do it the way I did with a seven second PB (personal best), " said a thrilled Gallagher after the victory. "What I really, really hoped for was to ride at my best and I couldn't be happier with how it went.
"This is definitely my best victory," he said. "The competition in para-cycling since Beijing, the depth is amazing and anyone could win on any given day. The Chinese, the British, the top six guys are all capable of putting together a great performance and the way I qualified and the way I rode the final I'm very happy with how I came up on the day."
After the race Butterworth was already inviting Gallagher to a rematch in Rio in 2016.
"I told him I might like to have a shower first," laughed Gallagher.
Meantime Sydney's Jayme Paris was inconsolable after crossing the line in the combined C1-3 500m time trial but tears of joy turned to smiles when she realised she had clocked a world record and claimed a medal.
The 22 year old almost crashed in the first 200 metres of her race when a left arm spasm, caused by her Cerebellar Ataxia, made her veer left and off the track.
"After I had that big wobble I just put the pedal down and kept going and then I came off and was told it was a world record and I went 'Oh my God, I've done it again!," she said of finding out her time was 45.449, almost a second under her previous world mark and quick enough, after factoring to 40.476, to give her the bronze medal behind C2 riders Yin He (CHN) who won with a factored time of 39.158 and Dutch cyclist Alyda Norbruis who was second in 39.174.
Paris is currently the only C1 class woman in the world and at world championships, without a rival, can ride a time but not claim a medal. Despite this she uses herself as the benchmark and has consistently improved her times since she began racing in six years ago. However the Paralympic Games is her chance to get on the podium because she lines up in a combined classification event where a formula is applied to each rider's time to account for their different levels of ability.
"I was aiming for gold, gold's the best you can get so I aim high, but I'm ecstatic I've got another bronze to add and a world record along with my 3000 (metre pursuit) world record," said Paris. She admits her reaction when the ataxia attack struck was not one for public consumption.
"I had a couple of choice words," Paris laughed. "Then I said 'I've lost it, it's gone' but for some reason I just kept the pressure on because our coaches taught us if something goes wrong put the pressure back down and keep it going and I did, I kept it going and I looked up and saw 45 (on the clock) and I was disappointed but then I had to wait to see and it ended that I was in bronze.
"With that big wobble, which is a huge challenge for me, I could have been on the deck so easily but I've pulled it back and got a bronze so it's amazing to be up there again."
Paris' coach Tom Skulander says he was very happy with her ride and the time she posted.
"She's very frustrated by her own disability and to have that ataxia attack going down the back straight in the first lap put her off a bit," he said. "Whether it disturbed her rhythm or not I don't know but she probably lost a couple of tenths (of a second) there."
"I can get at least, if it's a two hour training session depending on the heat in the velodrome, the most is ten attacks and the least is one or two, just not expected on the day (of the race)," said Paris who denied the occasion played a role. "I was not at all nervous, I was just pushing the bike a little too hard and the arms didn't like it so they wanted to go one way. They've really got a mind of their own and I can't control it. Best thing I did was keep the pressure on and keep going.
"I have this one big shake. If I'm eating I've quite often hit myself in the face with a drink bottle, I've spilt peas everywhere, hit my grandmother in the face with a piece of watermelon one day. It's just uncontrollable and I don't know when they're going to come and I have to let them out but because I'm holding onto something it then comes out through the bike and I just have to do what I can to keep it up and keep it rolling."
Seven other Australians were in action today and all of them posted personal best times but did not figure in the medals.
In the C1-3 500m time trial Simone Kennedy was almost a second under the 44.747 she rode at the world championships in February clocking 43.892 to finish in sixth place.
Tandem pursuit champions Kieran Modra and pilot Scott McPhee clipped almost a second off their best time to finish fourth in the kilometre time trial while pursuit silver medal pair Bryce Lindores and pilot Sean Finning went almost three seconds faster than they have before to place fifth.
In the women's C4-5 500m event pursuit gold medallist Sue Powell cracked the 40 second barrier for the first time covering the two laps in a time of 39.942 (factored to 39.702) to place sixth while team mate Alex Green, who claimed bronze in the pursuit, clocked 42.350 (factored to 42.095) to place eighth. Green's time was also her fastest ever.