Wheelchair racer David Weir raised both hands in celebration as he crossed the finish line to win the T54 5000m title in the cauldron of a packed London 2012 Olympic Stadium on Sunday night.
It was a fitting finale to session that had already seen ParalympicsGB athletes collect a brace of silver medals from Libby Clegg and Graeme Ballard.
The 32 year old Surrey athlete is competing at his fourth Paralympic Games and won golds over 800m and 1500m last time around in Beijing, but the T54 5000m title had so far eluded him.
“This was the one I wanted to win and it was special doing it in my home town,” said Weir, after getting his London 2012 campaign off to the perfect start. “The crowd gave me such a massive lift. It’s indescribable what it does for you.
“It was a dream come true tonight. It’s taken hard work and dedication to get here,” added Weir. “I was in great form coming into this and everything I have done in the last year has been for this.
“The race went well tactically and I was confident coming into the final bend,” he added.
He also said a big thank you to everyone who plays the National Lottery for the support it gives to the British athletes.
Weir had covered every break during a typically cagey 5000m final. He tailed Switzerland’s Marcel Hug over the last 600m and then punched for home 200m out.
His emotions were clear to see as he crossed the finish line with arms aloft to win in 11:07.65. Australia’s Kurt Fearnley took silver and Julien Casoli bronze.
Weir returns to action on Monday morning in the first heat of the T54 1500m, scheduled to get underway at 10:40.
“I’ve got a tough heat and an early start, but I’m feeling more relaxed and confident now I’ve got the first one out of the way,” he said.
Earlier in the evening, Libby Clegg completed a family double, adding a silver medal to the bronze won by her brother James at the Aquatics Centre.
The sprinter came home in second in the final of the T12 100m about an hour after her younger brother had collected the first Paralympic medal of career in the S12 100m Butterfly.
“It had to be done,” she said. “I couldn’t have my little brother beating me. Not to take it away from him though, he’s brilliant. I’m extremely proud of him. He’s a development athlete. I heard the result in the call up. I’m very happy for him.”
Libby Clegg made a great start to the race and was overhauling leader Oxana Boturchuk of Ukraine on the 60m-mark when China’s Zhou Gouhua burst through to take gold.
Running with guide Mikail Huggins, Clegg produced a strong finish for a repeat of the silver she won in Beijing four years ago in a time of 12.13 seconds.
The 22 year old, based in Loughborough, said: “I’m extremely proud of us. It’s a once in lifetime opportunity. I can’t explain how I feel.
“It’s great to see Paralympic Athletics moving on. The standards are improving. The winner Zhou Guohua is a fantastic athlete.
“The profile of Paralympic sport has increased so much in the lead up to this and it’s fantastic, I can’t believe how much interest there is,” she added. “It’s amazing to have that home support and I hope it continues for future Paralympics.”
Guide Huggins added: “It was a wonderful experience, a wicked opportunity and we just hope that we can go on and win more medals together.”
Ballard was Britain’s first medallist of the night, collecting silver in the T36 100m.
The Chorley sprinter, competing at his third successive Paralympic Games, got a terrific start, bursting ahead of the rest of the field.
It wasn’t until the final few metres that Russia’s Evgenii Shvetcov was able to overhaul him to snatch gold. He needed a Paralympic record to do so, setting a new benchmark of 12.08 compared with Ballard’s 12.24.
“That’s one of the best days of my life,” declared Ballard. “The better man got the gold, but it was close.
“I got a bit of a fright this morning because I stumbled just at the start and I had to work hard to get my momentum back, but I was confident because my start is my strongest part.
“I’ve had a few ups and downs in my preparation, but I’m really happy, I even thought I’d won gold at one point because the crowd was just amazing. The support has been top notch.”
Ballard won bronze in the T36 200m on his Paralympic debut in Athens but left Beijing empty handed.
Meanwhile Bath’s Ben Rushgrove, who won silver over 100m in the Birds’ Nest Stadium in Beijing four years ago running with a broken bone in his foot, missed out on the medals this time around.
He was slower out the blocks than Ballard and came home in sixth in 12.37 seconds – two hundredths of a second outside the time that earned him a medal in Beijing.
The British pair of Katrina Hart and Jenny McLoughlin finished in sixth and seventh places respectively in the women’s T37 100m final.
Hart, from Bath, got out of the blocks well but was soon overtaken by Namibia’s Johanna Benson, before France’s Mandy Francois-Elie stormed through to take gold.
Benson came home in second, but Hart’s challenge faded late on and she crossed the finish line in 14.41 to take sixth. Chepstow’s McLoughlin equaled her personal best to take seventh in 14.48.
There was another impressive performance by one of Britain’s youngsters, with 16 year old Sophie Kamlish from Bath coming home fifth in the T44 100m final in 13.98 seconds.
Stef Reid, who train in Loughborough, finished eighth in 14.25 just hours after winning silver in the F42/44 Long Jump.
Great Britain had earlier won a gold and silver in the morning session at the Olympic Stadium. Aled Davies won the gold in the F42 Discus, with Stef Reid taking silver in the F42/44 Long Jump.
Get more Paralympics news from www.paralympics.org.uk/gb.