UNDER the clouds of east London, there was to be no silver lining this time for Stef Reid.
Just as fellow Scot Sammi Kinghorn was to do later on, Reid claimed a glorious, euphoric gold worth waiting for. On the second day of the Para Athletics world championships, the 31-year-old Scot finally claimed the global title that had been so elusive, winning the T44 long jump with a third-round leap of 5.40 metres that proved well beyond the reach of her rivals.
The runner-up in the Paralympic Games in this same stadium in 2012 before matching that feat in Rio last summer, this felt like just rewards for over a decade’s worth of graft on the track since she abandoned a planned route into medicine to seek surgical gains in speed and distance.
Back then she was taking a gamble, just one more calculated change of direction since the fateful day in her teens when the propellers of a powerboat scythed through her right leg and it required a speedy amputation to save her life. Brimming with
positivity, it is hard to imagine now that she briefly wallowed before refocusing and reimagining her goals.
Starting as favourite in the absence of her long-time French rival Marie-Amelie Le Fur, Reid felt nerves but also the buzz of the occasion. “I’ve made a really intentional choice over the past few years that every time I compete, even every time I train, I’m going to enjoy it,” she said.
“I’ve chosen to be out there, it’s such a privilege and it’s beyond fun when you walk out there with a whole crowd behind you. I know myself better now, and I jump well when I’m having a really good time. It’s a privilege to be in sport and I’ve probably matured as a competitor.”
And as an individual. Over the past 12 months, Reid has served as a board member of London 2017 with a remit to inject the perspective of an active competitor. One small but significant influence has been the decision to move the medal ceremonies outside the arena and towards a podium outside. But these championships have succeeded on many levels already with close to 300,000 tickets sold so far, beating any previous edition by a country mile.
“I’ve had my eyes opened up in different ways,” Reid admitted. “I have an athlete’s hat in terms of what vision I had for my sport and then I blend it with what the reality looks like when you factor in logistics and budgets. We need more of that in the sporting world.
“It’s depressing when you go through the sporting world and read about the breakdown in systems in areas such as athlete welfare. But this experience has been so overwhelmingly positive for me. Look at the board members I’ve been working with – I’m in a minority being female and having a disability and being under 35. But I’m really pleased with how they embraced me and taken my views seriously.”
Kinghorn made it a Scottish double on an evening when the UK’s golden tally increased to six, lowering her world record 28.61 seconds with a superb victory in the T53 200 metres final. Elevating her status with world and European records aplenty this season, the 21-year-old Borderer was barely challenged as she sped clear, winning by almost a half-second from Canada’s Angela Ballard.
Kinghorn was overwhelmed, and said: “It honestly means everything. This has been the dream since I started – to be world champion and I still can’t believe I can say it.”
Paralympic gold medallist Jo Butterfield was forced to pull out of the discus final, 24 hours after her injured shoulder could only carry her to fourth place in the club throw.
But as the hosts extended their cushion at the top of the medal table, there were golds for Richard Whitehead, who claimed his fourth world title in the T42 200m in a championship record of 23.26. And there were world records for Hollie Arnold in the F46 javelin and Sophie Hahn in the T38 200m.