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Rio 2016: The new teens on the block

Rio 2016: The new teens on the block

Stuart Weir profiles the three teenage medallists of the women’s T35 100m at the Paralympic Games in Rio

What do five teenagers do on a Wednesday morning? Well if they happen to be in Rio they could take part in the women’s (or should I say girls’?) T35 100m. The winner was 17-year-old Xia Zhou of China in a Paralympic record of 13.66, with Australian 15-year-old Isis Holt second and Britain’s Maria Lyle, aged 16, third.

Zhou said that her life was “mostly just training”.

“I finished school so now I can put all my focus on training,” she added. Holt, on the other hand, is still at school and juggling training with schoolwork. “It gets pretty tricky, but all of my teachers and my coach help me manage it and at the end of the day it does not seem so hard,” she said, adding that her class would be watching her race in Rio at school.

The last time I spoke with Lyle and Holt (pictured) was in Qatar for the IPC World Championships and now again in Brazil. Their lives seem quite surreal. Holt said: “It is pretty incredible and sometimes I think I am missing out on teenage life. But who would go for that over this? It is incredible and I would not change it for anything.” Lyle agreed. “I am definitely not a normal teenager but I get given lots of good opportunities and I feel very lucky to be at the Paralympics,” she said.

The girls are very much aware of the unusual age profile of their event. “It is nice, I feel I am around people my own age,” said Holt. “It makes it less scary that we are all together and we are all young and there to achieve the same goal. That is pretty cool.”

Lyle commented: “It’s amazing and the two youngest got medals. It is good to know there is young talent coming through. We do chat in the call-room.”

Perhaps it is something to do with the perspective of youth, but all three medalists seemed to be enjoying the moment.

“I’m very happy to come in first place,” said Zhou. “The others are really strong. I wasn’t expecting to win so I am really happy. I was just hoping to finish in the top three.”

Holt explained: “I did not come out here expecting to run that well so I’m very happy. It’s great running against such good competition. It’s what we come here to do and they definitely delivered. Zhou is an incredible athlete. I have never met her before but she proved today how good she is.”

While Lyle was delighted with the result, if not her performance. “I’m so pleased to have won a medal,” she said. “It wasn’t the best time – it was a bit slow and I could have executed it better.”

Isis Holt’s idol is Usain Bolt. As she says: “Our names are very similar for a start and he is fun to watch. I would love to be like him one day.”  She has made a good start.

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