Chorley ace Graeme Ballard wins gold in Berlin
The emotion flowed for Chorley's Graeme Ballard in his final competition before retirement after the double Paralympic medallist stormed to gold at the World Para Athletics European Championships.
A life in coaching awaits for the 39-year-old but the self-proclaimed old dog showed he still had some new tricks, a deserved European title coming in the T36 100m.
A career of silvers had thus far plagued Ballard – a medal he had collected at Paralympic Games and European Championships alike prior to coming to Berlin.
But there was no stopping him this time around, a season’s best 12.32 seconds seeing him ease to the line clear of the rest of the field – despite a disrupted start to the race.
“I feel absolutely overwhelmed. I thought it was going to be hard after the false start, but experience showed in the end,” he said.
“The closest to me was Roman Pavlyk, and I expected him to be a lot closer to myself.
“Roman’s been around nearly as long as I’ve been around, so I expected a bit more of a challenge, but you can’t beat experience.
“My race went as good as it could’ve gone, to plan and I’m really pleased with the way I went out there and hit it hard.”
Ballard was keen to thank those around him after the race but emotional goodbyes are not coming just yet, with one more event still on his radar in Germany.
That will come in Saturday’s T36 200m, the event in which he became a Paralympic medallist for the first time – way back in 2004.
But any thoughts of an easy jaunt round the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark could not be further from the truth for a racer who has lived and breathed competition.
“I’m going to do the same again,” added Ballard, who has cerebral palsy. “You’ve got to put a bit more in, because it’s a longer distance, but I’ve got bags of confidence now.
“I’ll maybe do a bit of coaching after this. I’ve always had my eye on coaching, but whilst I’ve been competing it’s been hard to put two and two together.
“I don’t think I’m going to be competing any more, I think this is it. I’ve got the UK to thank, my Mum and my Dad, but I’ve still got to focus on the 200m – I can think about the rest after that.”
British Athletics works alongside UK Sport and the National Lottery to support the delivery of success at the world’s most significant sporting events, principally the Olympic and Paralympic Games. They do this via the funded initiative, the World Class Programme, one part of the British Athletics pathway.