First time Paralympian, Dana-Gaye Weller, seemed hardly a rookie at the premier track and field competition in the world – the Paralympic Games – being held in Rio de Janeiro.
At approximately 5:35 pm Rio time, she emerged in the ring for the Women’s F51 Club Throw in the Olympic Stadium, the home of track and field at these games. The job had to be done and she was conscious of that fact and the expectations of her coach, Neville Sinclair, and Team Janaica. Although she fell short in the standings by placing sixth, she delvered her personal best (PB) in fine style with a throw of 12.21m .
“I am feeling so accomplished yet I know that the journey has just begun and I have to go the distance” said Weller as she gave that characteristic confident smile. From the outset, she took command of her nerves and emotions and gave Jamaica an inspiring performance.
Coach Sinclair, reflecting on Weller’s performance, said “This is a demonstration of discipline, hard work and application and a prime example of commitment for others to emulate”
Weller started the sport seriously this year as previously she was unable to dedicate quality time owing to personal commitments as well as challenges in commuting to Kingston from Mandeville for training. But now she has entered the arena of international competition and, form all indications, and intends to be a respected conender for future medals.
“This is Paralympism at its finest. A modest and an industrious Jamaican with an admirable ability to go beyond her limit ” said Christopher Samuda, President of the Jamaica Paralympic Association.
But the jury is still out regarding the appropriateness of classification of athletes in Weller’s class. Th Paralympic Record leading into the Rio Games stood at 13.64 mThis year, prior to the games, the world record was established at a remarkable distance of 22.75 mby the gold medaist. In this Paralympic competition, athletes hurled the club over 18 meters, arguably a phenomenon in the event. Only Weller and Zena Cole from the USA, who finished seventh, kept within the Paralympic Record and the distance expected of athletes who traditionally fall within the F51 class. On the face of it, the JPA boss, Christopher Samuda says that “the circumstances appear incredulous and clearly merit an investigation”
Joanna Butterfield of Great Britain got the gold medal with a throw of 22.81 m a new world record, Zola Ovsii of Ukraine copped the silver with 22.21m and Kyle Grimes, also of Great Britain, captured the bronze with a throw of 21.84m
Nevertheless, Weller is now in the club of club throwers and plans to retain her membership and excel at next year’s IPC World Athletics Championship in London.