Golden glow!

Stef Reid fi­nally trades up from sil­ver

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Ben Bloom ATHLETICS COR­RE­SPON­DENT at the Lon­don Sta­dium

From “the chubby girl with one foot” to the cham­pion of the world – it took Stef Reid 11 years to com­plete the jour­ney, but she fi­nally did it. So of­ten over the course of her ca­reer Reid has stood on the podium look­ing up at the cham­pion be­side her. It hap­pened on so many oc­ca­sions that she ad­mit­ted ques­tion­ing whether she was des­tined to be “the sil­ver girl” for­ever.

The doubts can fi­nally be ban­ished. Hav­ing won three Par­a­lympic and two world medals over a decade, Reid is now the one hold­ing gold.

Yes­ter­day’s T44 long jump vic­tory at the World Para Athletics Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don was thor­oughly dom­i­nant.

In jump­ing a win­ning dis­tance of 5.40 me­tres, Reid was some way off her best, but it was good enough any­way. With France’s Par­a­lympic cham­pion Marie-Amelie Le Fur not com­pet­ing, Reid knew she truly had only one ri­val for gold in the form of Dutch­woman Mar­lene van Gansewinkel.

That Van Gansewinkel sur­passed 5.10m only twice, com­pared to Reid on all six of her ef­forts, spoke vol­umes. The Bri­tish vet­eran was with­out doubt the best in the world.

“It feels amaz­ing,” said the 32-yearold. “I was just re­flect­ing – I did my first World Cham­pi­onships in 2006 and this is the first time I have stood on top of the podium. There’s that part of your brain where you think: ‘Gosh, I don’t want to be the sil­ver girl for­ever.’ And you have all sorts of ques­tions that go through your head.

“There’s no point in ig­nor­ing them. You just have to ad­dress them. The re­al­ity is there’s a lot of ath­letes out there and not every­one gets the gold.

“It’s been a long jour­ney and it’s re­ally sat­is­fy­ing at the end of it all. I gave up a lot to do this. I made a de­ci­sion in 2006 to pur­sue this over med­i­cal school, which a lot of peo­ple were say­ing was nuts: ‘How is a one-footed sprinter pos­si­bly go­ing to make it?’

“But I’m so thank­ful I did be­cause I can’t imag­ine miss­ing out on this and watch­ing from my sofa.”

Born in New Zealand to Bri­tish par­ents, Reid moved to Toronto, Canada, aged four and al­most lost her life 12 years later when her leg was shred­ded by the pro­pel­lers of a power­boat af­ter she had fallen into the wa­ters of a lake near her home.

So strong was the blood loss that doc­tors did not know whether they would be able to save her but, af­ter am­pu­tat­ing be­low her right knee, she learned how to walk again and soon be­gan her in­ter­na­tional sports ca­reer – ini­tially rep­re­sent­ing Canada be­fore switch­ing al­le­giance to Bri­tain in 2010.

Now based in Loughborough along­side her seven-time world cham­pion hus­band Brent Lakatos, of Canada, Reid cred­its mov­ing to coach As­ton Moore’s group in 2015 with lay­ing the foun­da­tions for the end of her gold medal wait.

“I re­mem­ber when I first started para-sport and I stood on the track and, let’s be hon­est, no­body wanted to coach the chubby girl with one foot,” she said. “It took a while to get some­one on board. In 2015, I was in a sit­u­a­tion where I no longer had a coach and not every­one is su­per ex­cited to pick up a 31-year-old ath­lete.

“But As­ton just got it all. It was his first dive into para-sport and he has ab­so­lutely loved it. It has al­ways been my am­bi­tion that when some­body watches me jump, they say, ‘Wow, she’s an amaz­ing jumper’, not just ‘She’s amaz­ing for an am­putee’.

“I feel that with As­ton I am get­ting there. He’s the kind of coach I wish I met when I was 16.”

Not that Reid is quite done with her com­pet­i­tive ca­reer yet. She will re­sume com­men­tary du­ties for Chan­nel 4 to­day, with Lakatos due to start his cam­paign in the T53 200m.

Then there is the ques­tion of the Tokyo Par­a­lympics in three years’ time – a tar­get she is in­tent on mak­ing.

“I’d be re­ally dis­ap­pointed to not do Tokyo,” she said. “I’ve had such a good time with As­ton over the last two years and he still has a lot to teach me. And I’m still hav­ing so much fun. I’m not ready to walk away from all of this yet.”

Le Fur should be back in ac­tion by then, hav­ing taken time out from the sport for per­sonal rea­sons and Reid would love noth­ing more than to bow out by tak­ing the Par­a­lympic cham­pion’s crown.

For now, there re­mains that ‘what if ’ ques­tion. Would Reid still have won gold had Le Fur been com­pet­ing in Lon­don yes­ter­day?

Asked if she minded win­ning gold in Le Fur’s ab­sence, Reid replied: “Yes and no. I do hope she comes back. You al­ways want to com­pete with the world’s best, be­cause it brings out the best in you. But at the same time I can’t beat an imag­i­nary per­son.”

There was no such joy for Bri­tain’s Zac Shaw, who was be­low par in crash­ing out of the T12 100m semi-fi­nals.

Shaw only nar­rowly missed out on medals in both the 100m and 200m at the World Cham­pi­onships two years ago and qual­i­fied as the win­ner from his heat on Fri­day night.

He did not fire yes­ter­day, un­for­tu­nately, fin­ish­ing last in his heat in 11.35 sec­onds.

“I’m not go­ing to lie, I am pretty dev­as­tated,” he said. “I came into these cham­pi­onships want­ing a medal. I will re­fo­cus on the 200m on Wed­nes­day.”

Long-awaited tri­umph: Stef Reid cel­e­brates her first world ti­tle in Lon­don yes­ter­day

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