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Australia disqualified from 4x100m relay
By Crystal Ja
22:37 AEST Tue Sep 9 2008


Another fall on the track has cost Australia one of its best chances of Paralympic gold, causing the Kurt Fearnley-led relay team to be disqualified in the 4x100m final at Beijing.

The Australian team, coming into the race as favourites for the gold, erred in the first lap when Games debutant Matthew Cameron fell over in his chair as he approached Fearnley.

Unable to make the appropriate tap to Fearnley's back, the team was disqualified.

It was a shock result for the Australian team, which went from favourites to finishing in last place.

In the four-team field, they were the only ones to finish without a medal.

China's team of Zong Kai, Zhao Ji, Zhang Lixin and Li Huzhao won in 49.9 seconds - just 0.1 of a second outside the world record - while Thailand crossed the line in second and South Korea took the bronze.

Australian officials said later the wet track may have played a part.

Relay athletes, who do not use a baton, may only "change over" on specific zones allocated along the track.

Officials said Cameron had been going faster than expected and had to slam on his brakes as entered the changeover zone, causing him to skid and then tumble.

It is the second fall in as many days for the Aussies, after a shocking six-wheelchair pile-up in the women's 5000m on Monday night.

Australian Christie Dawes had been about to sprint to the finish line in the final 100m when three of her competitors fell in front of her.

Luckily for the four-time Paralympian, her appeal was upheld and she will get a second shot at the medals when the race is re-run on Friday.

While the Aussies mourn a lost chance in one of their strongest events, there was still good news at the Bird's Nest, with Heath Francis pulling off Australia's first gold medal of the day in the 200m sprint.

The one-armed runner managed a world record in his T46 class, finishing well clear in a time of 21.74s over Cyprus silver medallist Antonis Aresti and Cuba's Ettiam Calderon in third.

"Just amazing, what a blur, Francis said after the race.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic with that. I knew what I had to do. This morning I was really nervous. But it got to about four o'clock and the coach came and had a bit of a chat to me.

"I told him I was a little bit edgy but he calmed me down. It's really bizarre you normally get more nervous the closer the race comes, but I was the opposite."

Francis, a three-time gold medallist from the Sydney Games, said the only thing he was worried about during the race was getting his one sleeve wet.

The 26-year-old is scheduled to compete in another three events at Beijing - the 100m, 400m and 4x100m relay.


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