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September 11, 2008

Canadian wheelchair star Roy wins silver in race re-do

Canadian Diane Roy took silver in the women's 5,000-metre wheelchair race at the Beijing Paralympic Games on Friday, denying her bid to reclaim the gold medal taken away from her in a controversial decision earlier in the week.

American Amanda McGrory edged Roy by .01 seconds at National Stadium to win the gold in a time of 12 minutes, 29.07 seconds. Shelly Woods of Great Britain took the bronze in 12:29.32.

Roy, 37, believed she had won the event on Monday, but the International Paralympic Committee overturned the result after half the field was involved in a major crash and because of an official who ran onto the track.

"I have to think I won the gold Monday night and won a silver this morning," Roy said after Friday's race. "I will not forget I won a gold.

"I have to keep it in my mind I did it. Now it's a silver and I have to be happy about this medal."

The Hatley, Que., native was forced to return her gold medal and the race was rescheduled for Friday morning in a decision that Roy, at the time, called "unjust for a lot of people."

She was still upset about the decision after Friday's race.

"Even if I had won this morning I think it's really not fair," she said.

McGrory, the world record holder in the event, was thrilled with the win but sympathized with Roy's situation.

"I think it would be very difficult to be in her position," she said. "It's very difficult to lose when it's that close."

Eight of the 11 athletes in the original T54 class race for wheelchair athletes participated in Friday's rescheduled event.

Switzerland's Edith Hunkeler had been disqualified for causing the original crash and two other racers had been taken to hospital.

Six athletes were involved in the huge crash on Monday, but Roy managed to avoid it, winning the gold in a Paralympic record time of 11:54.03 seconds.

Woods took the silver in the initial race, while McGrory finished third to capture bronze before the results were overturned.

The crash occurred when Hunkeler appeared to run into teammate Sandra Graf just before the final lap, causing a chain reaction that left several athletes on the ground.

The remaining racers were further impeded after a judge came onto the track to assist some of the fallen athletes, prompting officials from the U.S. and Switzerland to protest the official result.

But before the race jury made the decision to re-do the race, Roy was awarded the gold in the medal ceremony.

IPC athletic executive committee chairman Chris Cohen said on Tuesday that the decision to reschedule the race was the right call but admitted that the ceremony should not have been held until the protest had been resolved.

McGrory agreed that running the race again was the right move.

"It was a little bit unfair after the crash because so many women were out," she said. "I'm not sure the results ended up being as fair as they could be."

Roy faces tough schedule
The additional race added to an already gruelling Paralympic Games schedule for Roy.

She won her heat in the 400-metre race on Thursday night and then had to get up early to race in Friday's rescheduled 5,000 final, which she believed was a factor in her result.

"This morning, in the warm-up, for sure I was not in my best shape," she said. "Always I've had this situation in my head.

"I was just a little bit heavy."

Roy, the bronze medallist in the 400 at the Athens Paralympic Games, will also have to race in the 400 final on Friday night, where she'll face reigning champion Chantal Petitclerc of Montreal.

She will also race in the 800-metre, 1,500-metre and marathon events. Should Roy qualify for the finals in those events, she could be racing at least once a day until Thursday.

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