Or, my first Blip collage! - Here in large!
Yep, having taken close to 700 photos on Thursday there was no way I could choose just one (if I had to, it would be one of these - probably Peacock & Pistorius hugging).
It was a glorious night at the stadium, simply one of the best experiences of my life. Every athlete, from Team GB or anywhere else, got rousing cheers (although the increase in the sheer volume of noise for GB athletes was something else) from just after the start (no cheering until the gun goes!) through to the finish of their races. When we were trying to get tickets for this (through Mark's former housemate Gav, whose name is now legend) we were originally aiming for Monday's session, how glad were we that it sold out!
Gav claims he had nothing to do with the tickets but you could have fooled us - we were sat maybe 100 yards away from the Flame in the Section 2 seating - the view of everything was brilliant. We could see the start of the 400m/800m events and most importantly the finish line for everything was just off to the left. We also had the shot put and discus competitions in front of us and when Dan Greaves set the Paralympic Record in the discus our whole section exploded. The cheer was almost as loud when the USA's Jeremy Campbell managed to break it, his throw was massive and earned him the gold with Greaves taking silver in the end.
But the highlights of the night were the track events and the medal rush for GB that came with it. It started well with Ben Rushgrove and Paul Blake taking bronze in their events, then there was a big one, but between that and the others we also saw Ola Abidogun take bronze. His was especially dramatic as the contest was so tight it took a few minutes for his name to come up on the board and he just stood their watching it. Mark and Fe had missed the race in search of refreshments but saw him from the second tier and wondered what was happening - then he rocketed out of sight when his name came up in the bronze position, flying around the stadium as the crowd went nuts.
Th first big names of the night was Hannah Cockroft, competing in the final of the Women's 200m - T34. You could have heard a pin drop at the start as everyone waited to see if she could pull off the same amazing feat as she had in the 100m, and then after the first 50-or-so there was no doubt and the roar of the crowd was deafening. At that point she had moved beyond everyone except the whoever was in the outside lane (meaning, of course, that she was already metres in front of them) and by the time she hit the final 50m there wasn't another competitor in sight! Amy Siemons finished second and was a clear 2 seconds behind, simply unbelievable.
Following her race we saw Aibdogun take his bronze and then it was time for David Weir in the Men's 800m - T54. Great news for us as he started just down to the left, and that meant on the second lap we were in prime position to watch him hanging in behind the leader, at which point everyone just started yelling "Come on!", but Weir held firm. Then he hit the start of the curve at the far end with 200m to go and finally did, and if the noise before had been deafening it was at that point my ears overloaded - the stands were shaking as he pushed himself into the lead and held it all the way to the end - there wasn't going to be a bigger cheer all night...
...except there was (and I don't mean the one for Eddie Izzard when he turned up to give Weir his medal - even he looked surprised when he got a bigger cheer than some of the competitors!).
No, the biggest cheers of the night were for one local lad as it happens, a certain Jonnie Peacock who was competing with Paralympic legend Oscar Pistorius in the Men's 100m - T44 final. This was going to be big, in the build up it was accurately described as the equivalent of Bolt vs. Blake in the Olympics; and with Alan Oliveira in the mix as well, anything could happen. Something did happen, right at the start - for the first time that anyone could remember the crowd started chanting a name and "Peacock! Peacock!" was ringing out over the stands - he had to turn and quieten the crowd himself so they could get ready to race!
And after that, you could imagine he was nervous, but he wasn't the only one. Because of the delay Oliveira actually overbalanced and gave a "faulty start" by falling over the line - it was a green card (i.e. no blame) and so everyone reset. Second time around, no mistakes, except for anyone else thinking they could have beat Peacock. He flew from the blocks (though Zhiming Liu got away faster but he quickly faded), building up a lead of about 1m that stayed with him all the way to the end, even though he said he was sure Pistorius was going to fly past him at any moment! His momentum carried him all the way around the curve at the end and he stopped just in front of us, checking the board for his time and then giving Pistorius a massive hug which sent the crowd into another mad cheer.
It was after that that Greaves set the Paralympic Record a second time, riding on the wave of cheering - only for Campbell to do the same again - but no one was going to stop the noise at that point, it was simply immense. Following the discus there were a few more qualifiers for some finals on Friday, but everyone was waiting for the medal ceremonies for Weir and Peacock (Cockroft's had taken place earlier).
After that it was a surprisingly quick journey back, we managed to get onto a Javelin train with relative ease and made the 11:15 back to Cambridge - Mark gave me a lift home and it was about 01:00 I finally nodded off (after adding the Peacock pic in the bottom right to Facebook - another contender for the Blip!)
Speaking of the Blip, and so I can leave it here and get some rest, here's what you're looking at (and I recommend going large for sure!):
Across the top: Jonnie Peacock off to pick up his GB flag from the crowd, Hannah Cockroft storming to the finish line in the Women's 200m - T34, Dan Greaves' silver medal throw in the Men's Discus Throw - F44, Cockroft and teammate Melissa Nicholls (who placed 7th) celebrate after the race.
Through the middle: David Weir trails China's Lixin Zhang (who was eventually disqualified, but I don't know why) at the 425m mark before exploding forth, Ola Abidogun takes the bronze in the Men's 100m - T46, Greaves celebrates setting the Paralympic Record (he did so twice, trouble was so did the American who took gold - Greaves finished with the silver and a best throw of 59.01m), Pistorius and Peacock embrace following their race, Ben Rushgrove celebrates his bronze in the Men's 200m - T36 final.
Along the bottom: Peacock spots his mum and runs into the crowd, [top] Peacock sprinting for the line [bottom] Weir crossing the line, [top] Peacock as he crossed the finished and [bottom] when he finally stopped running, Paul Blake chasing Russia's Evgenii Shvetcov in the Men's 800m - T36 final - Blake eventually finished with a bronze after Shvetcov took the gold and the defending Russian champion Artem Arefyev finished strongly took take the silver.