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Lewis sets personal best

Photograph supplied by www.islandstats.comPush it to the limit: Lewis, left, powers to the finish line in the lane next to Canadian Ilana Dupont in the T53 400 metres heats at the Olympic Stadium

Jessica Lewis said her personal best in the T53 400 metres on Saturday at the Paralympic Games in Rio was clear evidence of her extra endurance training paying off.

The 23-year-old finished sixth in her heat in a time of 1min 25sec, more than four seconds slower than race winner Hongzhuan Zhou, of China, in 55.42.

Shirley Reilly, of the United States, was second in 56.32, with Hamide Kurt, of Turkey, placing third in 56.72.

Lewis’s time might not have been good enough to reach yesterday’s final but left the Bermudian satisfied that she is starting to reap the rewards of her hard work in the longer distances.

“I was very excited to do my fastest 400 at the Paralympic Games,” Lewis said.

“Ken [Thom, her coach] set me a goal of trying to better my time as we knew that realistically it was going to be tough to get into the final.

“He just said, ‘Make a run for it and if you burn out then that’s the race’. So that’s what I did.”

Lewis and Thom, her long-time coach, have been focusing on improving the wheelchair sprinter’s strength and endurance over the past 12 months.

She said her performance in the 400 has boosted her confidence heading into next weekend’s 800, which will be her third and final event in Rio.

“I’m really looking forward to the 800 now,” she said. “One of my main goals is to try to get into the draft and I’m pretty confident in my ability to get in there.

“It’s going to be very competitive in the 800 and I know it will be hard for me to get into the final.

“I’ve got a few days off now and I’m looking forward to watching Yushae [DeSilva-Andrade] compete [in boccia].”

Lewis, who is competing in her second Paralympics, finished sixth in the 100 final on Thursday at the Olympic Stadium, where all of her events are being held.

She posted a time of 17.25 seconds and was in second place at the 60-metres mark. Lewis could not better her personal best of 16.81sec, 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 Hongzhuan placed second in 16.51 and Australia’s Angela Ballard came third in 16.59.

Lewis won bronze at last year’s IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, and gold at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto.