PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Sit skier Momoka Muraoka claimed the silver in women’s downhill on Saturday for Japan’s first medal of the Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics.
Muraoka, the country’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony, finished the course at Jeongseon Alpine Centre 1.49 seconds behind Germany’s Anna Schaffelhuber, who is here looking to repeat her five-discipline golden sweep in Sochi.
“Honestly, I’m relieved. It’s a pretty bumpy course and the two skiers before me crashed, so I was worried I would fall too. I’m happy I could finish, and with a medal too,” the 21-year-old Muraoka said.
Bolstering Japan’s strong start, Taiki Morii took silver in the men’s downhill — sitting, his fifth medal in as many games. American Andrew Kurka wonthe gold with a 1.64-second advantage over Morii.
Morii said he was disappointed he did not win his first Paralympic gold but was also relieved to start his Pyeongchang campaign with a medal.
“I want to be more aggressive in my four other races and win a medal of an even better color.”
Akira Kano, who was aiming to defend his Sochi gold in the same event, did not complete his run after crashing.
American Andrew Kurka won gold, while Takeshi Suzuki finished ninth as he gears up for his preferred events, the slalom and giant slalom.
Hiraku Misawa finished 15th in the men’s standing downhill.
At Alpensia Biathlon Centre, Keiichi Sato finished ninth in the men’s 7.5-km standing biathlon.
Yurika Abe was ninth in the women’s 6-km standing biathlon, while Momoko Dekijima finished 13th.
In the sitting event, Nonno Nitta, a former wheelchair marathon athlete and Paralympic debutant who began shooting just a year ago, finished 13th with a broken left ski after falling on her third lap.
“I was nervous, but I could hear people cheering me on and that kept me going,” she said.
In Japan’s first men’s para ice hockey match, host South Korea was much too good, winning 4-1.
After a goalless first period, South Korea’s Jang Dong-shin netted to put the home team in the lead 6 minutes into the second, but it was not until the third stanza that the game got into a flow.
Third-period goals by Jung Seung-hwan, Cho Young-jae and Lee Hae-man put the match out of reach and only a 42nd-minute effort by Kazuhiro Takahashi put Japan on the board.
“I think the opening game is the key to the whole campaign,” team captain Satoru Sudo said. “We go on to face (three-time gold medalists) the United States tomorrow, so we really wanted to win today. It’s disappointing.”
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