RIO DE JANEIRO – Makoto Hirose claimed silver in the men’s 60-kg weight class for judoka with visual impairment to earn Japan’s first medal at the Rio Paralympics as full competition got underway on Thursday.
His countrymen added two bronze medals, with Satoshi Fujimoto winning the men’s 66-kg bronze-medal bout and swimmer Takuya Tsugawa finishing third in a 100-meter backstroke final.
The 39-year-old Hirose suffered an ippon defeat against his Uzbek opponent Sherzod Namozov in the final at Carioca Arena, but managed to pick up his first Paralympics medal in three summer games since winning silver in Athens in 2004.
“The silver was the best I could do today considering how strong my opponent was,” said Hirose, who was a high school junior when he was diagnosed with optic nerve atrophy.
“The international level has gone up and it’s more challenging to win a medal now. This medal means more to me than the one I won in Athens,” he said.
Hirose, who had chosen to come out of retirement after competing in the 66-kg division in the 2012 London Games, is making his fourth straight Paralympic appearance.
In Paralympic judo, athletes with visual impairment compete in various weight categories — seven for men and six for women.
In the men’s 66 kg, three-time Paralympic gold medalist Fujimoto managed to claim a podium spot with a yusei decision win over Osvaldas Bareikis of Lithuania in the match for bronze.
The 41-year-old Fujimoto, who missed out on a place on the Japanese team at the London Paralympics, overcame wrist injuries to make aggressive attacks on the mat while his 22-year-old opponent received three shido penalties.
In the women’s 48-kg bronze-medal match, Shizuka Hangai lost to Ukraine’s Yuliya Halinska, who scored a yuko from a kouchi-gari inner reap. Hangai finished fifth.
At Olympic Aquatics Stadium, Tsugawa won his first-ever medal with a good performance in the men’s 100 backstroke final in the S14 classification for swimmers with intellectual disabilities.
Tsugawa, who has an autistic spectrum disorder, touched the wall in 1 minute, 3.42 seconds, behind winner Lee In-kook of South Korea (59.82) and Marc Evers of the Netherlands (1:00.63).
In track and field, Shinya Wada was sixth in the men’s 5,000-meter T11 event. T11 athletes are visually impaired, and commonly run with guides.
In powerlifting, Japan’s best performance came from 51-year-old Hiroshi Miura, who placed fifth in the men’s 49-kg division by producing a lift of 126 kg.
Japan has set a target of 40 medals, including 10 gold, with 132 athletes participating in the Sept. 7-18 Rio Paralympics.
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