September has been a very successful month for our Paralympians, with 6 gold medals won by GLL Sport Foundation supported athletes out in Rio. We couldn’t decide on one as they’ve all had their struggles and achieved an amazing dream by being Paralympic champions, so all six athletes are named the September Athlete of the Month.
Gold – Aled Davies – F42 (Athletics – Shot Put)
Aled Davies won a gold medal in London 2012 in the F42 discus, and was devastated when the event was dropped from the programme for Rio. Fortunately, Aled was able to concentrate on the shot put, and came through to win his second Paralympic gold medal. His reaction was, “It’s very emotional to say the least. It’s been such a tough four years and to make the switch from discus to shot put has been really hard. It wasn’t really the distance I was capable of but no one’s going to remember that. The key thing is that I won.”
Aled is an ambassador of the Halo Sport Foundation in Bridgend and said, “It would be a honour to work with up and coming athletes in Bridgend. It has always been a goal of mine to work with and help to develop talent. This gives me a great opportunity to do so.”
Gold – Megan Giglia – C3 (Cycling – Individual Pursuit)
Megan Giglia won Great Britain’s first medal of the Paralympics with gold at the Rio Velodrome on Thursday’s opening day of action. Megan also clocked a world record in qualifying in 4:03.544, more than eight seconds clear of the United States’ Jamie Whitmore, her rival in the final. She closed in on Whitmore at the halfway mark and passed the American soon after to take gold. She had the option to continue to go for another world record, but opted not to.
After her victory, Megan said, “To be fair it hasn’t sunk in yet, all I know is I wouldn’t be here without my team, the back up crew behind me here, my family and friends. I only look forward to the future. I didn’t think I would make it to Rio, I thought it was a bit ambitious but I thought I would give it a go. Within the British camp the atmosphere is great, everyone is hyped up and ready to go. I hope this will be the first of many golds, I’ve still got three events to go so we’ll have to see. I’ve got my main event out of the way now so I can just enjoy the rest of them with my legs peddling fast.”
Gold – Michael McKillop – T37 (Athletics – 1500m)
Michael McKillop is the ambassador of Belfast and is now a quadruple Paralympic medallist. Winning the 800m in Beijing 2008, the 800m and 1500m in London 2012 and now retaining his gold in the 1500m in Rio this year. He said, “This one is special because I’ve come through a really tough time… and I’m just glad that I was able to go out and win I had to stay focused and realise what life is about, it’s not just about winning gold medals, it’s about living and being proud to live the life that I have, and I’m lucky.”
Michael said, “With the help of the GLL young athletes will have the opportunity to gain vital resources to be able to train and compete at a competitive level. GLL has given me the chance to be the Belfast ambassador, this allows me the opportunity to inspire and link with the next generation of athletes and making them understand the importance of having a network of support staff around them, when it comes to competing at the highest level.”
Gold – Pamela Relph – (Rowing – Mixed Coxed Four)
Pamela Relph is also now a double Paralympic medallist, adding to the gold she won at London 2012. Pamela was the only athlete in the boat remaining from the London team and showed her leadership throughout the race. She said, “It feels amazing. Coming through that last 250m I knew that we had won it, I knew no-one would come through us and the crowd really lifted us. This crew has come together brilliantly. We knew we were fitter, stronger and faster than our rivals but we still had to deliver.”
Regarding the GLL Sport Foundation, Pamela said, “I am very grateful for the support provided to me so far from the GLL Sport Foundation and the use of the facilities near me has been imperative to my training and recovery. The added financial is very valuable and helps me with saving towards equipment needed for my sport.”
Gold – Louis Rolfe – C2 (Cycling – Team Sprint)
Rolfe from Cambridge is only 19 years old and competed in his first Paralympic Games. He only took up cycling after watching at London 2012 and was inspired to give it a go. Having never looked back, Louis is now a double Paralympic medallist. A new world record from the team sprint trio of Jody Cundy, Jon-Allan Butterworth and Louis Rolfe gave ParalympicsGB their eighth gold medal in the Rio velodrome.
Rolfe went off like a rocket and at first it seemed Butterworth could not keep with the pace but the British team were soon ahead by the end of the second lap and Cundy finished strongly, setting a new world record in the process.
Louis said, “Thank you GLL for your support to date, it makes a huge difference to me knowing that I have people who believe in my ability and support my development. I never imagined when I was sitting watching the London Games in 2012 that I would be thinking of being a part of the GB squad in Rio, I feel delighted that I have come so far in such a short space of time and am determined to continue training hard to achieve my potential as a para cyclist, for me it makes life worthwhile and I am grateful for the support and encouragement from everyone who continues to help me on my journey. The support from GLL would enable me to train in the gym locally (it is a short walk for me to The Abbey pool and gym) the financial assistance helps with travel costs as well as funding vital pieces of equipment for my bike and adaptations to the bike.”
Gold – Susie Rodgers – S7 (Swimming – 50m Butterfly)
Gold and bronze medal winner Susie Rodgers has been supported by Greenwich Starting Blocks in partnership with the GLL Sport Foundation since 2011. Before departing for Rio, Susie explained how the charity sports award assisted her; “I have been supported now for over 5 years and I continue to be very grateful for your support on my journey as a para swimmer. This year my funding through GSB has allowed me access to train at various GLL leisure centres free of charge. I suffered an injury this year to my right shoulder which affected my performance at the World Championships. Although I still won a Gold and Bronze medal, I was lowered down a funding level by my National Governing Body. The award this year from GSB has been so crucial in getting me back on track”.
After winning her surprise gold, Susie said, “I can’t believe I’ve done that, I was trying for the silver, if I’m honest. I wasn’t going to carry on after London 2012.” Great Britain is very glad she did!
We are very proud to be supporting these six Paralympic champions! They are an inspiration to others and great ambassadors of the programme – thank you, and congratulations for being our September Athletes of the Month!