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Vanessa Wallace breaks the UK record twice at World Para Athletics Championships

UEL student finishes fifth in her shot put final at London Stadium

By Gareth Anstice

University of East London (UEL) student Vanessa Wallace broke her own UK record twice at the World Para Athletics Championships – but it was still not quite enough to secure a medal.

Vanessa produced the performance of her life in the women’s F34 shot put final, throwing a UK record of 7.63 metres with her opening attempt and adding a further centimetre to the distance with her fifth throw.

But against a top-class field, Vanessa had to settle for fifth place, matching her placing at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

Gold went to China’s Lijuan Zou with a throw of 8.23 metres, with Poland’s Lucyna Kornobys taking silver with 8.22 metres and New Zealand’s Jessica Hamill earning bronze with 7.77 metres. The same athletes won the same medals at the Rio Paralympics.

Despite missing out on a medal, Vanessa, 40, was delighted to have produced two lifetime bests in front of a noisy 25,000-plus crowd in the London Stadium.

She said, “Honestly, that was amazing,” she said. “I went out like a rocket to the point I had to double-check the distance from my first throw. I didn’t think I could throw that far yet!

“I think I spent myself on that first one so two and three weren’t great, but then in my second series I managed to nudge my PB [personal best] again, so I’m so happy.

The Haringey athlete added, “I didn’t get a nice shiny medal but I had two personal bests. I didn’t think I would get one personal best, so to get two in one competition, I think I’ll take that.”

Vanessa’s opening throw was greeted by a huge cheer, though she admitted afterwards that she doubted it would be good enough to secure a medal against such a high-class field.

“I knew that the athletes from Morocco and New Zealand were going to be a big challenge in the battle for bronze,” she explained. “They are both a lot more experienced than me and they earned their places ahead of me.” Morocco’s Saida Amoudi was fourth with a throw of 7.69 metres.

Vanessa, a former wheelchair racing coach and athletics activator for England Athletics, has experienced a meteoric rise in the sport, having taken it up in late 2014 and then competing at the Paralympics just 18 months later.

Competing for Great Britain on UK soil for the first time, Vanessa was roared on throughout her competition. Friends and family, plus a contingent from UEL, were among the spectators.

Having now experienced a home championship for the first time, she said it was something she wanted to see happen again soon.

“The whole experience has been amazing,” she said. “We need to find another competition and bring it back to the stadium because we really know how to do this.”