Paralympics wrap: Irish cyclists come up a fraction of a second short in medal bid

With the exception of Michael McKillop’s glorious gold medal, it has proved a disappointing day for much of the Paralympic team in Rio, writes Cathal Dennehy.

Ireland’s tandem pairing of Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal came up short in their bid to win a medal in the women’s individual pursuit, their time of 3:33.471 leaving them fifth and an agonising 0.173 seconds away from the medal race.

“We’re disappointed,” said Dunleevy. “We were here to get in the medal ride-off for gold and silver and we believed we could do it. We were aiming to get a personal best today but it wasn’t good enough on the day.”

Katie-George Dunlevy of Ireland, centre, along with her pilot Eve McCrystal, and head coach Neill Delahaye after the Women's B 3000m Individual Pursuit Qualifier at the Rio Olympic Velodrome during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Katie-George Dunlevy of Ireland, centre, along with her pilot Eve McCrystal, and head coach Neill Delahaye after the Women's B 3000m Individual Pursuit Qualifier at the Rio Olympic Velodrome during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

The Irish men’s pairing of Damien Vereker and Seán Hahessy was also unable to advance to the medal race, finishing eighth in the men’s B tandem kilo in a personal best of 1:06.37. “We got out of the gate cleanly and kept the power on,” said Hahessy. “A minute and six seconds to do 1km; I went to school one kilometre from my house and never got there that quick. We’re pretty happy.”

Today’s races brought an end to Irish interest in the velodrome, but all the team members will be back in action on Wednesday in the time trials.

Elsewhere, Dublin sprinter Orla Comerford finished eighth in the T13 100m final at the Olympic Stadium in 12.87, a race won by Ukraine’s Leilia Adzhametova in 11.79. “I just knew it wasn’t there on the day,” said Comerford. “I made it to the final and that was my first goal and for now, that’s good at my first major championship. This year was really tough and I’m so glad to get here.”

In contrast to recent days, there was no joy for the Irish in the aquatics centre, with Ellen Keane failing to progress to the final of the SM9 200m individual medley after finishing fourth in 2:41.17.

“I think I underestimated how much the backstroke would take out of me,” she said. “Freestyle is my weakest so maybe I should have held back for that, but I gave it my all and can say I left nothing in the tank.”

Keane will be back in action in her favoured event on Wednesday, the SB8 100m breaststroke. “It was great to get in and get my first race out of the way,” she said. “I’ve been watching everyone compete for a few days and the nerves just kept on building. This is my third Games and I’ve never been anywhere like this before, the stadium is amazing, the crowds amazing.”

Ailbhe Kelly bowed out of the S8 100m freestyle after finishing seventh in her heat in 1:20.65. “It probably wasn’t the time I was looking for but I’m experiencing my first Games so I’m happy enough with the swim,” she said. “I definitely enjoyed that a lot more than the 400. I was a lot calmer.”

Catherine Walsh and Fran Meehan were Ireland’s representatives in the para triathlon, which made its debut at the Paralympic Games yesterday, finishing eighth overall.

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