Rio Paralympics 2016: Great Britain close in on 50 gold medals

By Saj ChowdhuryBBC Sport

Great Britain are on the cusp of winning 50 gold medals at a Paralympics for the first time since 1988 after claiming five more on day eight in Rio.

Sophie Christiansen and Natasha Baker retained their titles in the dressage.

Former swimmer Jeanette Chippington, who returned to the Paralympics after a 12-year absence, led a trio of successes in the canoeing.

Britain now have an overall medal total of 107 and are only 13 short of equalling their London 2012 tally.

They are assured of reaching 50 gold medals on Friday when Wimbledon wheelchair tennis champion Gordon Reid plays compatriot Alfie Hewett in the singles final, and the dressage mixed team have their title confirmed.

Reid and Hewett were beaten 6-2 4-6 6-1 by France's Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer in Thursday's doubles final.

Success was not long in coming on day eight, with Chippington clinching the KL1 canoe title on her return to the Games and team-mates Emma Wiggs (KL2) and Anne Dickins (KL3) also winning at Lagoa.

Ian Marsden (KL1) and Nick Beighton (KL2) took bronze medals to mark a successful conclusion to the Rio regatta for GB.

Dressage for success

Christiansen, 28, led a British one-two in the 1a championship test with a score of 78.217% on board Athene, with 67-year-old Anne Dunham, on LJT Lucas Normark, taking silver with 74.384%.

"I've always wanted to do my best at everything I put my hand to," said Christiansen, who won three titles four years ago. "It's going to sound big-headed but I think you have to have more than talent to stay at the top."

Dunham, who won the first of her six titles at Atlanta 20 years ago, said: "Everything has changed so much, in 1996 we were on borrowed horses. The host country had to source all the horses. Now we are on our own horses and we're actually real dressage partners."

Asked about competing at the age of 67, Dunham added: "It enables me to keep my horses. It enables me to ride and it enables me to feel that I'm whole and I'm a person and I just love it."

Baker had watched as team-mate and friend Sophie Wells won grade-four dressage gold for Britain on Wednesday, and ensured she would be on the top step of the grade-two podium with a commanding performance.

The Londoner, who has virtually no movement in her lower half after contracting transverse myelitis as a baby, was the best rider on all five of the jury's scorecards, scoring 73.400% overall.

"I have been crying like a baby," she told Channel 4.

"I am way more emotional than I was in London. My first day did not go as well as I had planned it, but I am so proud of [her horse's nickname] JP.

"This will be his last competition and he tried his heart out for me. He is my best friend and my soul-mate."

Back to the future

Chippington's first Paralympic medal came as a teenager in the backstroke at Seoul 1988.

When she took up canoeing following her retirement in 2004, she was determined it was as a hobby rather than a return to elite competition.

Dame Sarah Storey
Dame Sarah Storey - who turned to the velodrome after her own successes in the pool - revels in another sport-hopper's success

But the sport's inclusion in the 2016 programme and a desire to avenge her World Championship defeat by German Edina Muller combined to give her a sixth appearance on disability sport's main stage.

"Edina screamed when she crossed the line like she'd won and I was thinking 'I'm sure I was ahead' so it was only when the scoreboard said I'd won that I knew I'd got the gold," said Chippington, who prevailed by 0.114 seconds.

Chippington on KL1 gold: ‘I put so much hard work into this'

Anne Dickins: ‘Four years ago I was a Games Maker'

Silver lining for Brits on the track

Kadeena Cox and Georgie Hermitage missed out on winning their third gold medal of the Paralympics with silver in the T35-38 4x100m.

The quartet, which also included T38 gold medallist Sophie Hahn and Maria Lyle, finished behind China.

Double-leg amputee Richard Whitehead narrowly failed to win his second gold medal of the Games. The 40-year-old was awarded joint silver in the T42 final after powering through the field late to finish behind winner and single-leg amputee Scott Reardon of Australia.

"There's no way someone without legs should win that race but I think I can win it," said the Briton, who won T42 gold in the 200m.

Whitehead said he was unsure whether he would compete in another Games.

"I'll definitely be back for London 2017 (ParaAthletics World Championships) but I don't know about Tokyo 2020," he said. "I'll tell you more when I come to that decision."

Meanwhile, United States wheelchair athlete Tatyana McFadden won her fifth career Paralympic gold and her second of the Games when she claimed the 1500m title on Thursday. She also clinched silver in the 100m earlier in the competition. The 27-year-old, winner of the 2016 London Marathon, is hoping to win seven medals.

Elsewhere, six-time Paralympic champion David Weir confirmed he intends to retire from the track after the Paralympics, and from the sport entirely after April's London Marathon. The 37-year-old finished sixth in the T54 800m.

Henshaw takes bronze in the pool

Charlotte Henshaw
Charlotte Henshaw won silver in the SB6 100m breaststroke at London 2012

For once, there were no gold medals in the pool for Great Britain.

Charlotte Henshaw, 29, won bronze in the SB6 100m breaststroke in a race that saw SM6 individual medley gold medallist Ellie Simmonds finish fourth.

Team-mate Claire Cashmore was fifth in the S9 100m butterfly final.

Women's basketball team fall short of final...

Great Britain's women's wheelchair basketball team were already assured their best-ever Paralympic finish after reaching the semi-finals, but fell short of overturning the United States and making the gold-medal match.

GB trailed by just five points (41-36) at the halfway point, but were let down by a slow start to the third quarter and finished up 89-78 adrift.

They will play either Germany or the Netherlands in Friday's bronze-medal play-off.

...and men's rugby team suffer dramatic defeat

The men's wheelchair rugby team are out of medal contention after an agonising one-point defeat by Canada in the group stages.

A crunching hit from Canada's Zak Madell upended Britain's Ayaz Bhuta on the brink of scoring to send the match into overtime, before Canada's Trevor Hirschfield scored a dramatic late winner in a 50-49 victory.

Mike Brown on Twitter
England rugby union full-back Mike Brown congratulated the team on their performance

After an opening-match defeat from Australia, Great Britain will play hosts Brazil in their final group match on Friday at 16:45 BST.

'Paralympic Pele' helps Brazil reach final

Jefinho is hoping to win his third Paralympic gold

Move over swimmer Daniel Dias, there is a another Brazilian hero in town.

Jefinho Goncalves scored twice to help the host nation reach the blind 5-a-side football final with a 2-1 win over China. Jubilant fans chanted, "Jefinho is better than Neymar" - the Barcelona star who helped Brazil win the Olympic final.

Jefinho, blind by the age of seven, responded: "Neymar is the best Brazilian player so I am very happy because it means that I am doing a good job here."

He is a two-time gold medal winner and his team will face either rivals Argentina or Iran in the final.

And finally... Liam Malone

Liam Malone
Liam Malone has won the T44 200m and 400m at the Rio Paralympics

The star of this Paralympics? It could be New Zealander Liam Malone.

On Thursday the double amputee, 22, broke Oscar Pistorius' Paralympic T43 record to win the T44 400m in a time of 46.20 seconds - his second gold of the Games.

"I'm feeling good, I feel like I'm going to claim myself as New Zealand's new cyborg overlord. I'd be a good one," he said.

And on carrying the Brazilian flag after winning: "When you go to someone's house for dinner, when you leave you say 'thank you for having me' and that's what that was, - it was a thank you to the Brazilian people for having the Paralympics.

"They are very supportive people and I was just saying thank you and showing my love to them."

Liam Malone on BBC Radio 5 live: 'I'm going to the pub'

Day nine - key timings (GB unless otherwise stated)

13:35 - Megan Giglia in the women's C1-2-3 Road Race

14:15 - Paul Blake in the men's 400m T36 final

15:45 - Netherlands v GB in the women's wheelchair basketball bronze medal match

16:00 - GB v China in the men's team class 6-8 table tennis bronze medal match

16:30 - BC1 boccia player David Smith goes for gold at 16:30

17:00 - GB's David Stone in the men's T1-2 road race

Not before 20:30 - GB pair Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett face each other in the men's wheelchair tennis gold medal match

21:50 - Dan Greaves in the men's F44 discus throw final

22:11 - Hannah Cockroft and GB team-mates Mel Nicholls and Kare Adenegan in the women's 800m T34 final

22:45 - John Walker in the men's archery W1 event

23:24 - Ihar Boki of Belarus in the 100m freestyle S13

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