HE gave it everything he had, but in the end Carcoar wheelchair athlete Kurt Fearnley was unable to achieve a goal he so badly wanted on Friday morning and defend his Commonwealth Games men’s T54 1,500 metres gold medal.
After setting the pace for much of the final at Glasgow’s Hampden Park Stadium, Fearnley could not match the acceleration of great rival David Weir and finished with the silver medal.
As Fearnley spoke afterwards he struggled to hold back tears, but he did try and hide his passion for representing Australia and his bitter disappointment of not being able to replicate his efforts from the New Delhi Commonwealth Games four years earlier.
“That’s everything I had, so there is not a lot that I can do. When I was lining up, I was lining up to come home with a gold medal you know? And whenever you pull the green and gold on that’s what it deserves. You have to be fierce and you have to put it out there,” Fearnley said.
“I put it on the line but it just didn’t come off.
“This is what we do. Again, I have always believed that when you pull on the green and gold you need to fiercely race for it. Sometimes you may be content with whatever you are content with, it is all personal expectations.
“Today I wanted to go out and I wanted to defend that Commonwealth title.”
Fearnley was the fastest qualifier for the final, having taken out his heat in a Commonwealth Games record time of three minutes, 19.65 seconds.
It meant he had the inside draw, but there were those amongst the 10-man field who provided a significant threat to the former CSU student.
There were the men who placed second and third to him in New Delhi in Australian Richard Colman and Canada’s Josh Cassidy, but their was little doubt Englishman Weir was his biggest rival.
Weir had won his heat after sitting off the pace and drafting before unleashing a powerful sprint on the final lap, and he used the same tactics again in the final. They worked to perfection.
Fearnley was forced to lead on a wet track, Ghana’s Felix Acheampone trying to cross him from barrier nine before dropping back.
Leading them through the first lap in 58.45 seconds, Fearnley pulled a little wider into the second lane as he made sure he would not get boxed in as had been the case when finishing seventh to Weir in the London Paralympic Games men’s 1,500m final two years earlier.
However, the problem for Fearnley was that others did not want to help work out front. Cassidy briefly did so on the second lap, but then handed up to the Australian once more. All the while Weir drafted along in third wheel.
When the bell sounded for the final lap the pace increased, but it was not until the final 150m that Weir unleashed. No-one was able to match his acceleration and he went on to win in a time of 3:21.67. Fearnley rolled across the line for silver in 3:23.08 with Canada’s Alex Dupont (3:23.67) third.
Though disappointed, Fearnley praised the effort of the English champion.
“I have been racing chairs now for 20 years and he has been the hardest competitor to get an edge on,” he said.
“We have been rolling together for 15 of those 20 years and I have had some good years, but he is in a patch of form that I can’t believe.”
Fearnley played down any talk that a virus he has been battling since arriving in Glasgow hampered his performance and made it clear he is intent on having another shot at gold as part of the 2016 Australian Rio De Janiero Paraylmpic Games squad.
“We all deal with different stuff. I guess the saving grace of what we do is that we get to show resilience and show that you don’t let things, whatever it may be, get in the road of what you are trying to get. So that [virus] is nothing, you deal with it,” he said.
“I have two more years left. You wear the green and gold for a very limited time and I am going to make sure that limited time is put to good use and make sure I get to Rio. I will never die wondering.
“At some point I will be extremely proud and pleased about this.”