Australia wrapped up nine days of competition at the Dubai World Para-Athletics Championships with a ninth bronze medal, when Deon Kenzie kicked on the bend to bring home a 23rd medal for his country.
Kenzie was the reigning gold medallist from the last worlds in London in the 1500m (T38). He also collected bronze in Doha in 2015 giving him a podium finish at three straight world championships.
His medal meant Australia finished 7th overall with 8 gold, 6 silver, and 9 bronze.
And Kenzie had his training mate Jaryd Clifford cheering from the sidelines at the Dubai track.
Clifford put the Australian camp in a great mood on Friday morning by staging a mini-medal ceremony of his own after his gold in the 5000m (T13) on Thursday night.
The 20-year-old used two guides in his 12.2 lap race – coach Philo Saunders and best mate Tim Logan – in his impressive run.
But under International Paralympic Committee (IPC) rules, vision-impaired runners can only have one guide with them on the medal podium – and Logan missed out on Thursday night.
So today the winning trio snuck into the medal plaza, dressed in their full Australian track suits and held up their medals for family and friends to take pictures.
Back to the action in the last session, and Kenzie was in a 16-strong field of 1500m specialists including the reigning world champion Ireland’s Michael McKillop. He finished one place behind Kenzie and out of the medals.
“You can’t under-value a medal so to get one tonight I’m obviously very happy with,” Kenzie said, after crossing the line in 4m:08.49.
“But I came to the championships to win, so obviously a little disappointed although heaps of gratitude to win a medal for Australia.
“The field has changed a lot since London 2017 so to win a medal I’m over the top. But in saying that Tokyo next year is the one that really counts, so I’ll be putting in the hard yards over the next nine months.”
The other track final had 100m (T34) silver medallist from earlier in the week, Rheed McCracken, take on the 800m. He finished 5th in 1m:46.67.
“I got a bit stuck on the inside but in saying that I didn’t have anything to answer with when the front guys went. I tried to race as smart as I could,” McCracken said.
“I’m pretty happy overall to make two finals make a silver, and get through the competition. I’ve still got work to do on this event (800) and tweak a couple of things in the 100 but I can’t wait for next year.”
Australia also had competitors in two field events on Friday night.
Former world junior long jump champion Ari Gesini, who turns 18 in a month, acquitted himself well in his first major final in the senior ranks of the T38 cerebral palsy class.
Gesini set three PBs on his way to 4th with a 6.16m throw in the fifth round bringing a smile to his face.
“The moment I started my warm-up things seemed to be working really well. I’ve been working towards this for such a long time now,” Gesini said.
“All the pieces seemed to fall together. I wasn’t sure what to expect so the nerves and stress was high but I managed to stay relatively calm.
“I’m really, really happy with how it went. I got so close to the medals – I’m coming for them in Tokyo.”
Maria Strong in the shot put (F33) final was the final competitor of the 34 on the Australian team to leave the Dubai stadium.
She finished 5th with a personal best 6.37m. Strong, who is also at her first worlds after taking up throwing more seriously two years ago, sat in 4th spot for the majority of the shot put until Poland’s Joanna Oleksiuk let out a 6.40m effort.
“I’ve come fifth in my first world event but not only that, it’s the strongest F33 women’s field in history so far,” she said.
“The top seven athletes threw past the gold medal-winning length in London two years ago. So I’m happy and proud of what I’ve done.”