The venues were almost full and Ireland almost picked up a first medal of these Paralympic Games.
James Brown and his sighted pilot Damien Shaw led their Spanish opponents halfway through the 16-lap bronze medal race in the men’s 4km individual pursuit B after a trademark slow start but fell away in the final third.
It was, some said, the race of the day. Leads don’t often change hands in such a manner in pursuit races and it was testament to the Irish pair that they had pushed Miguel Angel Clemente Solano and Diego Javier Munoz in the manner they did.
The Spanish are full-time riders and supported by a national lottery. The Irish pair are part-time, train together intermittently and have known each other only since Christmas. Their first race together was completed only six months ago.
“We’re pleased to be near the top, but disappointed not to be on the podium,” said Brown, who is 20-years Shaw’s senior. “Fourth is a good result, whatever way you look at it, and I’m very happy, It was a fabulous experience.”
Brown’s equanimity was not shared by the young Westmeath man and their backgrounds can perhaps explain why.
The former has two golds to his name from the time he competed for Great Britain in athletics in the 1984 Games and this is just the latest chapter in a career that has also included stints as a Paralympic cross country skier and top-class swimmer.
Brown could talk of the leaps and bounds made by the movement since his early days but for Shaw, a club runner identified by a talent search who is cycling only two years, the disappointment was etched on a face drowned in droplets of sweat. “We’re racing against full-time athletes and we’re not full-time athletes,” he said.
“That’s the difference. We’ve done quite well on the time we’re allowed, but we’re hungry for training and hungry for success and we want to stay together and go further.”
Earlier, Enda Smyth’s ability to shave two seconds off his PB and Irish national record was enough to place him in third spot halfway through the list of riders in the men’s individual C1-2-3 1km race, although he eventually ended up 16th of 28.
In the pool, Ellen Keane finished seventh in the final of the women’s 100m butterfly S9 while James Scully missed the decisive race in the men’s 50m freestyle S5 by finishing ninth fastest in the morning’s heats.
Eilish Byrne was the first member of Team Ireland in action at these Games and she clocked in with a strong opening ride on Youri in the equestrian team test grade two at a packed but damp Greenwich Park.
All four members of the table tennis team tasted defeat at the ExCeL Arena but there should be more to cheer about today with a large Irish contingent across five sports spearheaded by medal hope Colin Lynch in the individual pursuit C2.