Perfectly-timed personal best sends disbelieving Polly Maton soaring onto London 2017 podium

23 July 2017

Teenager Polly Maton produced the performance of her career so far to become the second University of Bath-based athlete to win a medal at the London 2017 World Para-Athletics Championships.

The 17-year-old, from Urchfont in Wiltshire, leapt onto a global podium for the first time as she soared to a new personal best of 5.23m in the sixth and last round of Sunday’s T47 long jump final, much to her own surprise and the delight of the home crowd.

“It doesn’t feel real – I think I’m going to wake up in five minutes and someone is going to tell me ‘no, no, that didn’t happen and you still need to compete!’,” she said.

“To do it in front of my home crowd and in front of my friends and family – in an event I’ve perceived to be my weakest entering the championships – is something I can’t put into words.”

Maton had sat in third place for much of the competition but dropped down to fourth in the penultimate round, only to respond magnificently in a contest won by Taleah Williams of the USA.

Coached by Colin Baross at the Sports Training Village, Maton was inspired to take up athletics after visiting the London 2012 Paralympic Games as a spectator and admitted she couldn’t believe she was now a World medallist in the same stadium.

“I didn’t think I was going to win a medal,” she said. “My first jump [a season’s best of 5.06m] made me think ‘I’ll take that and just enjoy the experience’ but that put me into second so I got more and more nervous as the rounds went on.

“I realised I was in fourth for the last jump and had to go better than anything I’ve done previously to get a medal. I can’t believe it.”

Sunday’s final was a second of the week for Dauntsey’s School student Maton, who finished fifth in the T47 100m on Tuesday. She made her World Championships debut in Doha two years ago and also competed at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games but believes London 2017 was her best sporting experience yet.

Paul Blake in the 400m final

“It has been overwhelming – I’ve never had so many people wanting to have a photo with me and it validates the sport,” she said. “We train so hard for this and the support pushes us to the next level.

Maton’s medal adds to the gold won by fellow University of Bath-based athlete Sophie Kamlish, coached by Rob Ellchuk, in the T44 100m on Monday.

Paralympic champion Paul Blake was unable to add to his three World titles on this occasion as he was narrowly edged into fourth in the T36 400m on Friday before finishing sixth in the T36 100m.

Blake ran a season’s best of 55.79 in the 400m final but admitted: “I went through the first 200m a bit quickly and I paid the price for it in the end.

“By the end the lactic had kicked in and I had nothing left. I tried to stay relaxed but my little legs just couldn’t hold out.”

The following day saw Blake reach his first-ever global 100m final and he said: “There were some really strong sprinters in the race and I just did what I could to keep in touch with them.

“I’ve trained really hard to be here and I’ve medalled before when I’ve trained like that. Not to medal here: that’s a learning curve in itself.”

Click here to find out more about the athletics programme at the University of Bath.

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