Topics:  athletics, london, london paralympics, wheelchair

Paralympics within reach

Rheed McCracken has returned from Dubai after winning a spot in the 2012 Paralympics.
Rheed McCracken has returned from Dubai after winning a spot in the 2012 Paralympics. Scottie Simmonds

RHEED McCracken slipped quietly back into Bundaberg yesterday after qualifying for the London Paralympics in Sharjah earlier in the week.

He was greeted at Bundaberg Airport by just a few family members and he was glad to be home after a 15-hour flight from Dubai and spending another seven hours between wait time at the airport and connecting flights.

The 14-year-old Bundaberg State High School and Bundaberg Athletic Club member proudly showed off the four medals he won from five events against older athletes at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Championships.

He claimed gold in the 100m and silver in the 400m, 800m and 1500m but did not medal in the 200m, but his greatest achievement was clocking a Paralympics qualifying time of 16.86sec in the 100m.

"I did a PPP1 and qualified for London - the team won't be announced until March 15 but with my time, they will pretty much select me first before those with lower times," McCracken said.

"I am very happy - I knew I could do it but I was not sure if I could do the time there - it's pretty much what I have trained for for months.

"Even though I didn't get a medal in the 200m, I did a PPP2, which is the second-highest qualifier and I can still go to London for that, and in the 1500m, I was under the world record but I was beaten by 10 one-hundredths of a second.

McCracken, who was born with cerebral palsy, is the youngest qualifier for the team so far, but he will have little time for relaxation, even over Christmas.

"I'm off to Canberra next week for a national training camp but I'll have a rest after that, then I've got the Australia Day Series in January with a Canberra carnival, then I'll fly to Sydney and do a track meet there and a 10km," he said.

McCracken will continue to train in Bundaberg but said he will also go to Newcastle for training with top Paralympic marathon racer Kurt Fearnley, whom he said had helped him greatly.



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