• Kyodo

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Japan’s wheelchair rugby team maintained an unbeaten record at the Tokyo Paralympics on Thursday with a 60-51 defeat of Denmark for their second win in as many days and move into sole first place in their group.

Veteran class 3.0-point player Daisuke Ikezaki followed a big performance in the team’s first-up win over France with a 24 try effort against the Danes, putting his squad in great position to advance to the semifinals.

“I’m glad we secured a win. Their high-point player was fast so we were thinking we need to press and stop him before he gets going. That worked. We were confident that we’d be fine defensively if we played to our abilities,” said Hidefumi Wakayama, who scored five tries as a 1.0-point player.

Japan’s win was all the more impressive after Denmark displayed their quality form by beating reigning two-time Paralympic gold medalists Australia on Wednesday.

Daisuke Ikezaki pursues a Danish player during Japan's win over Denmark on Thursday. | DAN ORLOWITZ
Daisuke Ikezaki pursues a Danish player during Japan’s win over Denmark on Thursday. | DAN ORLOWITZ

Not to be outdone, Japan’s women’s wheelchair basketball team also kept its unblemished record intact, beating 2018 world championships runner-up Britain 54-48.

Class 4.0 player Ikumi Fujii rode some hot shooting to tally 14 points, going 6-for-10 from the floor. She also dragged in 10 rebounds and dished five assists.

“What was lacking from this team was the joy of winning and confidence. Now that we have that, we’re changed,” said Fujii. “I think that has made us stronger. We’ve created a basketball team where anyone can score.”

Track cyclist Shota Kawamoto had a chance to become Japan’s third medalist of the Tokyo Games in the men’s C2 3,000-meter event at the Izu Velodrome, but he let the chance slip when he was defeated in the bronze race by China’s Liang Guihua.

He got off to a quick start and led by almost 2 seconds at the end of the first kilometer, but the Chinese got stronger and stronger, overtaking the Japanese and building a 4.166 margin by the finish line.

“I was shooting for a medal but tired after my qualifying effort. At the end, my legs were done. I gave 100 percent,” said Kawamoto.

Anri Sakurai was the only Japanese to reach a quarterfinal in wheelchair fencing on Thursday, but she was easily dispatched by Russian Paralympic Committee representative Viktoria Boykova in their class B event.

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