China set a world record as they defeated Britain on Sunday in the thrilling final race at the Velodrome, meaning both track cycling teams finished the London this year Paralympics with five golds.
In an exciting farewell at the 6,000-capacity venue, China won the mixed C1 to C5 team sprint in 48.454 seconds, ahead of Britain in 49.519 – both faster than the world record China had earlier set in qualifying.
The Velodrome has proved a happy hunting ground for Britain, the hosts having won seven out of 10 golds during the Olympics and also topping the Paralympics medal table.
From the 18 events, Britain won 15 medals (five golds, seven silvers and three bronzes), to finish ahead of China on nine (five golds, one silver, three bronzes) and Australia on eight (four golds, two silvers and two bronzes).
Fittingly, the final anthem played was Britain’s “God Save the Queen”, for Anthony Kappes and his pilot Craig MacLean who won the men’s individual B sprint.
In B classification races, athletes with a visual impairment compete on a tandem bicycle with a sighted pilot on the front.
Contested in three duels over six laps, Kappes and MacLean beat compatriots Barney Storey and his guide Neil Fachie, who pulled up in the second race.
“I just kept the power on the pedals. I didn’t know it was quite so convincing till we crossed the line,” MacLean said.
Kappes and MacLean’s win meant that the final event, the mixed C1 to C5 team sprint, disputed over three laps, would determine whether Britain would reign alone at the top of the gold medals count.
C1 to C5 cyclists have an impairment that affects their legs, arms and/or trunk. The lower the class number, the greater the impact of their impairment.
China’s Ji Xiaofei (C4), Liu Xinyang (C5) and Xie Hao (C2) edged out Britain’s Jon-Allan Butterworth (C5), Darren Kenny (C3), Richard Waddon (C3).
“We just put focus on the race and all the energy into the race,” Liu said.
“We didn’t cooperate very well in the qualifier, so before the final we talked about cooperation and tried to do better.”
Kenny said: “It’s been the most amazing experience to race in this Velodrome. In a way it’s good us getting beaten, it’s just showing how the standard is going through the roof. Our days of dominance are starting to go.
“We’d like it to have gone the other way, when it’s that tight, but it’s exciting like that.”
Earlier in the 3,000m women’s individual B pursuit, Philippa Gray and her pilot Laura Thompson of New Zealand, who set a new world record of 3:31.530 in qualifying, won the gold medal in 3:32.243.
Ireland’s Catherine Walsh and Francine Meehan were beaten into second place in 3:36.360.
“There were two options: either catch the Irish or beat our own time and just hang on for dear life,” said Gray.