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Golden Graeme has big Olympic ambition after breaking 100m record
SPRINTER Graeme Ballard has always dreamed of winning gold in front of his home supporters at London 2012 – and now he believes it can be a reality after breaking a 100m world record at the Paralympic World Cup.
The Chorley disabled star, 32, was a cut above Tuesday’s competition in Manchester, becoming the first cerebral palsy athlete in history to duck under 12 seconds in the T36 category.
He beat the 12.15 seconds set by China’s Wa Wai So in 2007 with a time of 11.98s.
Cheered on by his parents Dennis and Barbara, Ballard was then red hot in claiming gold and another new PB in the 200m, in 25.12s.
Ballard has been in terrific form this year and, with less than 100 days until the Paralympic Games begin, he has put himself well in the frame for a gold in London.
“I would expect to be a contender for the gold now,” admits Ballard.
“I was not thinking about it a few weeks ago. I was thinking about a bronze, but gold is a possibility. This puts me right up there.”
The Horwich RMI Harrier added: “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.
“It was a fantastic day – one of the best I’ve ever had.”
Ballard enjoyed a superb winter, lowering his 60m and 200m personal bests, and winning both 100m and 200m at the test event at the Olympic Stadium earlier this month.
But success at London is what he craves the most, and would go some way to missing out on a medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
He won bronze in the 2004 Games in Athens, but victory in front of a passionate British crowd is Ballard’s big ambition.
“That’s what I’m going for and it would be absolutely fantastic to do that,” he said.
“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.
“It’s just about keeping going now and going flat out.
“I’ve got to keep training the right way, keep the energy up and focus.”
He added: “I’m excited about the Paralympic Games. When I went to the test event, the stadium is going to be amazing.
“It is up there with the stadiums in Athens and Beijing. It’s a big thing for me to run at London and in front of my home supporters. Nothing excites me more than that.”
Ballard is now to compete at this weekend’s Knowsley Disability Athletics Grand Prix before the European Championships in Stadskanaal, Holland, in June.
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