RIO DE JANEIRO – Wheelchair athlete Tomoki Sato headlined the sixth day of the Rio 2016 Paralympics for Japan, finishing a close second in the men’s T52 400-meter race on the Olympic Stadium athletics track on Tuesday.
After winning his heat on Monday, Paralympic debutant Sato pushed a 58.88-second race to finish 0.46 seconds behind gold medalist Raymond Martin of the United States in the event for athletes with single above-knee amputations, or an impairment that is similar.
At the Olympic Aquatics Stadium, Japan swam to a pair of bronze medals, one to Keiichi Kimura and the other to Takuro Yamada.
Kimura finished 2.8 seconds behind Chinese gold medalist Yang Bozun in the men’s 100 m SB11 breaststroke with a 1 minute, 12.88-second swim. The bronze was the visually impaired Kimura’s third Paralympic medal, while Yang bettered his own world record in the event by three-hundredths of a second in the Rio pool.
Competing in the men’s 50-m S9 freestyle, at his fourth Paralympics, Yamada finally won his first medal. The 25-year-old, who was born in Kobe, finished the one-lap race for amputee athletes in 26 seconds dead, 0.05 behind winner Matthew Wylie from Britain.
Japan’s great gold medal hope in wheelchair tennis, Shingo Kunieda, had a day to forget, racking up two defeats and losing his shot at a third consecutive men’s singles gold.
The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion began his day by being bundled out of the singles tournament by Belgium’s No. 2 seed Joachim Gerard in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, in just over an hour and a half.
Kunieda was circumspect about his gold defense ending at the quarterfinals: “The status of Paralympic champion is not the main meaning now, because right now my ranking is No. 6 so this means I’m the challenger,” he said.
“My opponents have a world ranking, too, and that means I have to challenge them every time.
“Of course it’s very disappointing, but I could play my best so no regrets,” he said.
Kunieda’s day went from bad to worse when, with partner Satoshi Saida, he later also lost the men’s doubles semifinal 6-2, 6-4.
Compounding the bad news for Kunieda and Japan, Takuya Miki and Takashi Sanada lost the other men’s doubles semifinal (6-2, 7-5) meaning that two chances for Japanese gold turned into one guaranteed bronze in the space of two matches.
Japan’s wheelchair tennis team had another letdown in the women’s doubles when Yui Kamiji and Miho Nijo lost their bronze medal playoff 6-3, 0-6, 6-1 to British pair Lucy Shuker and Jordanne Whiley.
With the Rio 2016 Paralympics now past the halfway mark, Japan is lagging in a disappointing 56th in the medal table. With four silver, seven bronze but still no gold, Japan’s 11 medals ranks the country in 18th by total number of medals with just five days of competition remaining.