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I gave it my all, says Lewis

Photograph supplied by www.islandstats.comNo regrets: Lewis was in second place until the 60 metres mark when her more powerful competitors overtook her at the Olympic Stadium in Rio

A podium finish proved out of reach for Jessica Lewis who came sixth in the T53 100 metres final at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Lewis said she threw everything she had into last night’s race at the Olympic Stadium, making a blistering start and was in second place until the 60 metres mark.

The slightly-built 23-year-old was unable to fend off her more experienced and physically stronger competitors during the business end of the race and admits that she simply ran out of steam.

“I had a really good start and was up in second for much of the race and managed to hold them off until the very end,” Lewis said.

“It was pretty awesome to be up there with the big girls and now I just need to improve my power, strength and stamina.”

Lewis harboured hopes of adding to her impressive medal collection, having won bronze at last year’s IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha and gold at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto, but can take comfort from knowing her best years are firmly ahead of her.

“I’m still at the beginning and I’ve only been doing this for six years,” she said. “I’ve got a long career ahead of me.

“I threw everything I had into it and know I’ll refocus for the 400 and 800.”

Lewis could not better her personal best of 16.81sec, finishing in a time of 17.25, with China’s Lisha Huang, who set a word record in the morning’s heats in 16.19, winning her second successive Olympic gold in 16.28. Her compatriot Zhou Hongzhuan placed second in 16.51 and Australia’s Angela Ballard came third in 16.59.

Also finishing ahead of Lewis were Hamide Kurt, of Turkey, in 17.01 and Samantha Kinghorn, of Britain, in 17.13.

Lewis said she was unhappy with her display in her heat when she finished fourth in 17.42 and was determined to iron out some technical faults in the final.

“I was disappointed with my heat and I had a really slow start,” she said. “I had to refocus for the final and felt I did a lot better.”

With seven of the athletes’ personal bests within half a second of each other, Lorri Lewis, Jessica’s mother and Bermuda’s chef de mission, said she expected an extremely close race.

“It was an awesome, awesome race,” she said. “She performed incredibly well and was very pleased as was her coach [Ken Thom] who is already thinking about the next four-year plan.

“These were the best T53 women in the world and she’s number six, and that’s not too shabby! We’re all extremely proud of her.”

Lorri said her daughter struggled to match the raw power and stamina of the top three as they approached the finish line.

“She’s so little, just 68lbs, and she was up there with the best in the world,” she added.

“It was just a matter of the size difference and stamina to get over that finish line. She’s getting there, though; just give her a couple of more years.”

Slow ticket sales overshadowed the countdown to the Paralympics, which has been downsized with venues being closed and services cut.

Lorri, however, described the first day of the Games as “wonderful” and was taken aback by the feel-good atmosphere at the stadium.

“There were some empty seats at the stadium but there were a lot more people than we thought there would be,” she said.

“It’s been amazing so far and the crowd was just incredible. They were cheering everybody and there was plenty of noise. The Athletes’ Village is beautiful and everybody has been really helpful.”

Lewis’s performance was a marked improvement on her showing at the London Paralympics in 2012 when she finished eighth in 19.38.

She returns to action in the 400 heats tomorrow at 12.40pm Bermuda time. The finals will be held on Sunday at 5.30pm.

Also representing Bermuda in Rio is Yushae DeSilva-Andrade in boccia. Her event starts tomorrow.