LONDON, England — Alphanso Cunningham lived up to his reputation of coming up big on the day when he threw a massive lifetime best, national and regional 21.84 metres to win the Men's F52/53 javelin event on yesterday's sixth day of the 14th Paralympic Games at Olympic Stadium here in Stratford.
The confident Cunningham, who had a previous personal best of 20.19m, timed his winning effort perfectly as he was drawn to throw after his top two opponents in front of a nearly filled 80,000-seater arena under clear blue skies in 60 degrees Fahrenheit weather.
The Jamaican, who was winning his first medal in the event at this level, got the winning throw on his fifth and penultimate attempt to surpass early leader, Mexico's ParaPanAmerican champion Mauro Maximo de Jesus, and Iran's defending champion Abdolreza Jokar, the Paralympic and world record-holder at 22.08m.
De Jesus, who led with 20.14m from the first three throws, failed to improve on that mark in his second set of throws and had to be satisfied with the bronze, while Jokar, who threw 20.01m in the first round, led for most of the way with 20.72m in the finals and took the silver.
Cunningham, who will be seeking another medal in his stronger event, the discus throw tomorrow, told the Jamaica Observer that in the final he had to change his strategy.
"I was going for power as I was aiming for the record and they fouled me for easing (lifting his body off the chair)".
After two fouls in the first round, he had to settle for a safe throw. "The coaches (Neville Sinclair and Jefferson Davis) passed on the message to me through Kerrylee Ricketts (the therapist), who was closer to me, that I should not try for power," and he qualified for the finals with a then season's best 19.57m.
In the finals he started with 18.50m before fouling on the final effort.
The 32 year-old Para PanAmerican Games discus gold medallist said he was confident he would take home the gold.
"I knew I could win as those in front of me had already done their best already and I told myself it was now or never."
Yesterday's gold medal, he said, further boosts his confidence going into the discus set for tomorrow morning.
"That is my better event, so right now I have no fears or pressure going into it," he said, adding that he felt some muscle spasms during the javelin event, but hopes Ricketts can get rid of them before he competes again.