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Records galore as Games hit home straight

LONDON, England, September 5 – The London Paralympics were on track to break an unprecedented number of world records, as the Games hit half-way Tuesday and sprinter Oscar Pistorius found out he will not face further action for his outburst.

A total of 279 world records were set in Beijing four years ago and in the first half of the Games to Tuesday morning, 137 new global bests were set, with a further 81 new Paralympic records, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said.

“The fact is our athletes are getting better. They’re training full-time. This is not just a hobby sport. It’s professional sport at its very best,” said IPC spokesman Craig Spence.

In the evening session of athletics at the Olympic Stadium, there were new world bests in the men’s T34 200m for athletes with cerebral palsy in the shape of Tunisian Walid Ktila.

His compatriot Abderrahim Zhiou, silver medallist in the T12 5,000m for blind and visually impaired runners, took more than three seconds off Kiwi Tim Prendergast’s record to win the T13 1,500m race in 3min 48.31sec.

And Abraham Tarbei of Kenya then defended his Beijing 2008 T46 men’s 1,500m title for upper limb amputees in 3min 50.15sec, more than two seconds better than his own world record.

In other stand-out performances, Brazil’s Felipe Gomes and Daniel Silva took gold and silver in the men’s T11 200m but the South Americans were denied a clean sweep as compatriot Lucas Prado was pipped for bronze by Angola’s Jose Sayovo Armando.

Assia El Hannouni, of France, defended her women’s T12 400m title for the third Games in a row, while British T54 wheelchair racer David Weir, gold medallist in the 5,000m, was roared to victory by the partisan 80,000 crowd in the 1,500m.

South Africa’s Pistorius returns to the track on Wednesday for the T44 100m heats, with IPC talks pending but safe in the knowledge that he will not face any disciplinary action after his angry reaction to his first 200m defeat in nine years.

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The 25-year-old was pipped on the line by Brazil’s Alan Oliveira on Sunday, prompting the South African star to claim that he was at a disadvantage over the length of his rivals’ artificial running prostheses.

Elsewhere, Pistorius’ compatriot, swimming legend Natalie Du Toit, claimed the 12th Paralympic gold of her career by winning the women’s 400m S9 freestyle in what will be her last Paralympics.

Also in the pool, Australia’s Jacqueline Freney grabbed an astonishing sixth gold in the S7 50m freestyle, while at the opposite end of the scale, North Korean swimmer Rum Ju-Song trailed in last in the men’s S6 50m freestyle heat.

But the 16-year-old, who lost his left arm and left leg in a construction site accident at the age of six, said he was proud to be the reclusive nation’s first ever competitor at the Games.

“I’m very honoured to be the first Paralympian. I’m encouraged that many people cheered for me,” said the teenager, who got to London on a wild card.

At the ExCeL centre, China won three of the four individual foil medals in wheelchair fencing while Greece took the Boccia mixed pairs BC3 title 4-1 against Portugal and Brazil beat the Czech Republic 5-3 in the BC4 mixed pairs.

The equestrian events came to a close, with Britain topping the table at Greenwich Park with 11 medals, including three for Sophie Christiansen.

In the wheelchair tennis, British flag bearer Peter Norfolk — dubbed the “quadfather” — crashed out in what he called an “appalling” shock quarter-final defeat in his bid for a third straight quad Paralympics gold.

But Dutch queen of the court, Esther Vergeer, the world number one, three-time Paralympic champion and unbeaten in more than 460 matches, progressed to the semi-final in the women’s singles and the doubles with partner Marjolein Buis.

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Brazil, France, Spain and Argentina will contest the semi-finals of the men’s five-a-side football.

Britain’s Prince Harry, making a low-key return to public duties after naked pictures emerged of him partying in Las Vegas, watched the swimming and goalball and also met British discus thrower Derek Derenalagi.

The former soldier was initially pronounced dead when he lost both his legs in a blast in Afghanistan in 2007.

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