The youngest Paralympian in Tokyo took to the pool on Thursday looking to change attitudes to disability, as more world records were smashed on the second day of competition.
In a reminder of the continuing risks posed by the pandemic, organizers said a Games participant had been hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19, but insisted the event would remain safe.
China’s Guo Lingling won the women’s under-41kg powerlifting, sending the world record tumbling and helping her country join Australia at the top of the medal table with six golds each.
“This is the first time I’ve participated in the Paralympic Games, so to break a world record and win this medal for China is very special for me,” said Guo, 32.
Spanish cyclist Alfonso Cabello also had the best time ever in the men’s C4 1,000-meter time trial, adding to the nine world records beaten on Wednesday in track cycling and swimming.
The Games’ youngest Paralympian, 14-year-old Ugandan swimmer Husnah Kukundakwe, competed on Thursday morning in the 100-meter breaststroke in the SB8 category.
Kukundakwe, who was born without her right forearm and has an impairment to her left hand, did not make the final but said she felt she could “touch the clouds” after a personal best time.
She said she wants to change attitudes towards people with disabilities in Uganda, and give “these kids a chance.”
She is just months younger than fellow teenage swimmer Miyuki Yamada, who became Japan’s youngest ever Paralympic medalist on Wednesday.
Japan enjoyed a gold rush at the Olympics, finishing third after the United States and China, and its record Paralympic delegation hope to do the same.
Takayuki Suzuki won Japan’s first Summer Paralympic gold medal since 2012 on Thursday, the 34-year-old taking the men’s 100-meter freestyle S4 swimming title to get the host nation into the gold column on the games medal table.
The medal was Suzuki’s second in two days and took his career tally to seven, including a gold he won at the 2008 Games in Beijing.
“I came into the race trying to swim like I always do so I’m really satisfied with my time and also finishing first,” he said.
Suzuki’s medal was one of two in the pool for Japan on Thursday, with Uchu Tomita contributing a silver in the men’s 400 freestyle S11 category on his Paralympic debut.
Japan’s wheelchair rugby team maintained an unbeaten record with a 60-51 defeat of Denmark for their second win in as many days, moving them into sole first place in their group.
Veteran class 3.0 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 a 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 class 1.0 player.
Japan’s win was all the more impressive after Denmark displayed their quality by beating reigning two-time Paralympic gold medalists Australia on Wednesday.
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.”
The Japan men’s wheelchair basketball team got its Paralympic campaign off to a winning start in the evening, beating Colombia 63-56.
A Kei Akita, Renshi Chokai one-two punch carried the home team to the win. The former led all scorers with 24 points while the latter contributed a 15-point, 17-rebound 10-assist double-double.
Britain’s Paralympians found glory at the Izu Velodrome, however, with Jaco van Gass taking gold and his teammate Finlay Graham winning silver in the men’s C3 3,000-meter individual pursuit final.
Competitions are taking place mostly without spectators to minimize infection risks, and organizers have announced 184 COVID-19 cases linked to the Games.
Tokyo 2020 said Thursday that a “stakeholder involved in the Games” has been hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19.
Japanese media reported that the individual was not an athlete, and does not have severe symptoms.
Most of the cases at the Games are among staff and contractors living in Japan, which is facing a record COVID-19 wave, but Thursday’s 15 new cases included two athletes from overseas staying in the Paralympic Village.
Organizers did not give details of which teams the pair belong to, or whether they were linked to any other positive tests.
There have been 13 cases detected in the Paralympic Village so far, including five athletes.
Two-time wheelchair rugby champions Australia face off against France on Thursday, hoping to wrest back their chances of extending their winning streak after a shock loss to Denmark on Wednesday in the high-impact sport.
And on the wheelchair basketball court, the United States men’s team beat Germany 58-52 while the women play Spain on Thursday afternoon, with both male and female U.S. sides aiming to defend their golds from Rio 2016.
In a battle of the goalball giants, 2016 Rio Paralympics silver medalists USA inflicted a first defeat in five years on Brazil with an pulsating 8-6 Group A victory at the Makuhari Messe Arena in which the lead changed hands four times.
Brazil, who had not lost since gaining the bronze medal on home turf in 2016, are still in good shape to qualify for the quarter-finals after dismantling reigning champions Lithuania 11-2 in their opening match on Wednesday.
“It’s a roller-coaster of a sport,” U.S. center Calahan Young admitted after a man-of-the-match display in which he scored four goals. “I’ve never beaten this team before in my life, they are an incredible team.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.