Rio Paralympics: Halifax’s Hannah Cockroft leads golden streak to beat London 2012 tally

Great Britain's Hannah Cockroft wins the Gold Medal in the Women's 800m - T34 Final.
Great Britain's Hannah Cockroft wins the Gold Medal in the Women's 800m - T34 Final.

Great Britain’s Paralympians have won more medals at Rio 2016 than they managed four years ago in London - with two days of the Games still remaining.

Hannah Cockroft’s T34 800 metres athletics gold - her third of the Rio Games - saw Britain match their haul of 120 medals from London 2012.

Great Britain's Hannah Cockroft wins the Gold Medal in the Women's 800m - T34 Final.

Great Britain's Hannah Cockroft wins the Gold Medal in the Women's 800m - T34 Final.

And her 15-year-old team-mate Kare Adenegan finished with bronze to move ParalympicsGB above the London haul, meeting the target set by funding partners UK Sport.

The successes took Britain’s total to 56 gold medals, including three equestrian titles on Friday’s ninth day of competition.

Paul Blake claimed Britain’s 50th gold of the XV Paralympics in the T34 400 metres athletics on Friday morning and David Smith won the 51st with boccia victory.

The equestrian riders added to the total with an imperious display, ensuring Britain won a best-ever haul of seven equestrian gold medals. Sophie Christiansen and Natasha Baker completed their hat-trick of titles, while Lee Pearson also won gold, the 11th of his distinguished Paralympic career.

And Gordon Reid beat team-mate Alfie Hewett in the men’s wheelchair tennis singles final.

Sophie Wells and Anne Dunham also took equestrian silvers on Friday, while David Stone claimed T1-2 cycling road race silver. Class 6-8 bronze in the team table tennis - for Will Bayley, Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson - saw Britain’s total rise to 119 before Cockroft and Adenegan delivered.

It is only the third time in British Paralympic history that the team has passed 50 gold medals - and the first since the British Paralympic Association was formed in 1989.

Gold medals have been won in 10 sports - athletics, boccia, cycling, canoe, equestrian, rowing, swimming, triathlon, table tennis and wheelchair tennis. Britain won gold medals in seven sports at London 2012.

ParalympicsGB’s gold medal haul will be the highest since the Seoul Games 28 years ago, when 65 golds were won.

One caveat in the medal count is that the Russian team is absent, banned by the International Paralympic Committee for state-sponsored doping. Russia finished second in the London 2012 medal table, behind China and one place ahead of Britain.

The Russians would have had difficulty stopping Britain in the equestrian arena.

The British team has long dominated para-dressage and did so again, with Pearson triumphant - extending his record to at least one gold in the last five Games - before Christiansen and Baker also triumphed.

Baker joked she felt sorry for Britain’s rivals after a haul of 11 medals across the equestrian competition.

She said: “I feel sorry for hearing our national anthem so many times. It’s just incredible and we all feel so good.

“It’s been an amazing competition. I think even more successful than London for our team. All that work has paid off.

“We have the best team in the world around us and there’s a great spirit in the camp.”

After Pearson, on Zion, won the grade Ib freestyle title, Christiansen, on Athene Lindebjerg, added the grade Ia freestyle crown to the championship and team golds she had already won.

“I’m just thrilled,” said Christiansen, who has cerebral palsy.

“I’m so proud of all my team-mates. They’ve done so, so well.

“Eight gold medals is not bad. It will take me a while to reflect on this experience. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind.

“I really need to take a break to reevaluate what I want to do.”

Christiansen, who now has eight Paralympic titles, might not be able to take a break just yet.

She has a first-class mathematics degree and works as a statistician for Goldman Sachs. Her expertise may be required after Britain’s haul of medals.

The 28-year-old from Ascot has turned her ‘out of office’ on her email, but she has also had her access restricted during the Games.

She added: “It does say ‘I’m away at the Paralympic Games’. They’ve locked me out, so I can’t (check them). They know I work too hard.”

Next Baker, on Cabral, added the grade II freestyle title to championship and team golds. She now has five Paralympic golds.

Baker added: “For our last test together, I just think it was magical and amazing.

“He (Cabral) deserves to go out with a bang. Five gold Paralympic medals, three here, two in London - he’s a legend.”

Like Christiansen and Baker, Cockroft now has three golds from Rio. She has five in all after winning two at London 2012.

Two of her three golds came in new events, the 400m and 800m.

The 24-year-old wheelchair racer said: “To get three golds is absolutely ridiculous. If I’m honest I didn’t believe I could do it myself.

“It’s so difficult to stay ahead of everyone. I came out thinking this is my last race of the year and to just go for it.

“I don’t like the 800m, it’s been really hard four years, I’ve been pushed all the way.”