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Ballard ready to dip for glory
9:10am Saturday 1st September 2012 in Sport
GRAEME Ballard believes the battle for Paralympic gold could go down to a photo finish and he has already been practising his ‘dip’ to come out on top.
The 33-year-old from Chorley opens his London 2012 campaign in the T6 100m sprint tomorrow, a strong contender for gold after smashing the world record in May.
Ballard, who has cerebral palsy and suffers from epilepsy, became the first in his category to break the 12 second barrier when he raced to gold at the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester in May.
Now ahead of his sprint double header, with the 200m coming up next week, Ballard knows it will take something special again to improve on the bronze medal he won in Athens.
He said: “I will be happy with a 12.2, 12.3. That might possibly be good enough to win gold at the Paralympics I can actually picture doing something. I have been practicing dipping and I might have to win it on a dip. It could be that tight.
“It’s amazing that I’m the first person in my category to dip under 12 seconds. I didn’t think it would happen and I never thought I’d be the one to do it.
“I’ve never really thought about doing it. It’s not been on my mind. It was a big surprise. It was a lovely day in Manchester and I suppose that helped because I was nice and relaxed.
“I feel like I’ve got an excellent chance with the way I’m running at the moment, although I need to make sure I’ve not peaked too soon.”
Ballard, who lost his funding after a disappointing performance in Beijing four years ago, is relishing the prospect of performing in front of a home crowd at the Olympic Stadium – and believes it may suit him.
Ballard said: “You’ve got your home crowd, but I like the way the stage is set back a bit. The crowd is not on top of you.
“In Beijing, it was claustrophobic. I could really feel that. When you got in the stadium, the crowd were right over you. I think that played a big part in how I performed.
“Nobody had broke 12 seconds before. I thought no way was anybody ever going to go sub 12. If anyone was going to do it, I thought it would have been Wie Way.
“He is the one to beat in London. The Chinaman has always been the one.”
Ballard’s goes in the 200m sprint on Thursday with another chance of a Paralympic medal, having admitted he doesn’t have a favourite event.
He said: “It can fluctuate. One day I can be happier with my 200m runs, then on another day it can be the 100m. I can’t pick which one is my favourite at the moment. It is usually the 200m, but now the 100m is right up there.
“I would expect to be a contender for the gold now. I was not thinking about a gold 12 months ago, but it’s a possibility.
A few weeks ago, I would have been thinking about a bronze, but this puts me up high in terms of a gold medal chance.
“That’s what I’m going for and it would be absolutely fantastic to do that.”