It may not have been the third gold medal that he had dreamed of, but Britain's Peter Norfolk was over the moon to win a medal at the London Paralympics, claiming silver with Andy Lapthorne in the quad wheelchair doubles.
Norfolk, affectionatly dubbed 'the Quadfather' in recognition of his long domination of the sport, was ousted from his Olympic singles reign in the quarter-finals earlier this week, but bounced back to compete in the doubles final with his junior partner, taking on the defending champions, the USA's David Wagner and Nick Taylor.
Norfolk, who won gold in the inaugural quad wheelchair singes at Athens in 2004 and again in Beijing in 2008, and Lapthorne were on the back foot throughout the opening set, as the Americans' superior consistency made the difference. With Wagner, Norfok's erstwhile singles rival, winning point after point at the net, while Taylor relentlessly targeted Lapthorne at the back of the court, the USA breezed through the first set 6-2.
But, buoyed by a packed court at Eton Manor, the the only new permanent London 2012 Paralympic venue, Norfolk and Lapthorne upped their level in the second set, so although they dropped serve, they broke back again and again. Leading the set for the first time 5-4, they couldn't break the Taylor serve, but finally made the breakthrough at 6-5 to send the final into a third set.
However, once again the Americans went up a gear, re-charged by their own pocket of very vocal supporters, and, breaking serve to start, cruised to their third gold medal, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.
“I tried everything but couldn't quite get there in the end,” said Norfolk, who collected his fifth Paralympic medal to add to his two singles golds and a silver and bronze in the doubles. “We have a strong rivalry with the Americans and unfortunately they won the big one.”
Norfolk admitted it could well be his last Paralympics experience, even his last match altogether, but praised the crowd for their support in what was one of the best atmospheres ever seen in wheelchair tennis.
“London has been astronomically better than anything else and it will be hard to top,” Norfolk said. “Andy for sure can go to Rio and I'm very grateful he helped me win a medal here. It may be my last match but I won't make that decision yet.
“I'm going to spend some time with my family and take stock as I've spent a long time on court. But maybe I'll head out to Australia and win our third Grand Slam in January.”
While the main wheelchair events feature the legendary Esther Vergeer, aiming for her third Olympic gold and currently on a match-winning streak of 469 matches, other Britons in action included Gordon Reid, who reached the men's wheelchair quarter-finals, Reid and Marc McCarroll, who reached the men's doubles quarter-finals, and also Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker, competing in the women's wheelchair doubles semi-finals on Thursday afternoon.
“I'll never experience anything like this and I'll never forget this Paralympics. Bring on Rio," McCaroll said. “I hope these Games will inspire more young people to get involved in tennis and just enjoy themselves,” Reid added.
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