Tomoki Sato finished behind Raymond Martin in the men’s T52 400-meter final at the Rio Paralympics and immediately set the time and place where he planned to take his revenge.
All the years Sato spent working toward his goal had suddenly boiled down to a 100-meter stretch of track at the National Stadium. Martin was ahead of him again and speeding toward a second straight gold medal. This time, however, Sato was ready for him.
Sato chased down Martin and reached the finish line just ahead of the American to win the gold medal in thrilling fashion in the T52 400-meter final at the Tokyo Paralympics on Friday night.
He finished in 55.39 seconds to outduel Martin, who finished second, and set a new Paralympic record. Japan’s Hirokazu Ueyonabaru earned bronze.
“I can’t get the words to come out,” Sato said after the medal ceremony, where he received his gold from former SMAP member Shingo Katori. “I lost to Martin at the Rio Paralympics and I made up my mind to return the favor. I thought that it could only be done at the Tokyo Paralympics and I’ve been moving forward these past five years. I turned pro this year and there have been various big events for me and I’m just glad I could win the Paralympic gold medal.”
Sato said he was able to stay calm despite Martin getting off to a better start than he had during the heats. Martin was ahead of Sato as they rounded the final turn and headed down the home stretch.
“I had a pretty good start and as you could see in the race, I had the lead on Sato for 300 meters, 250, meters,” Martin said. “But he has a very good finish so I tried to start as hard as I could and hold him off as long as I could.”
Sato found another gear in the final 100, putting his power and strength on display as he propelled himself past Martin to claim the gold.
“We were tight near the finish line and I think that’s what led to the Paralympics record,” Sato said. “Although I couldn’t reach the world record, I think the people who supported me and were watching on TV enjoyed it.”
Japan’s Tomoya Ito set the previous Paralympic record of 57.25 during the 2008 Games in Beijing. Martin also topped that mark, finishing in 55.59 seconds.
“I knew it was going to be a close race,” Martin said. “It was much closer than I expected it to be. We had great times, 55 seconds.”
The 50-year-old Ueyonabaru finished in 59.59.
“I’m really, really happy,” Ueyonabaru said. “To gain a medal here means a lot. There are so many people who supported me. If I didn’t have family who understood me, I could not have continued this until now.
“If you compete with younger athletes you get a lot of inspiration and impulses from them. I was just thinking about going into this competition with all my might and energy.”
In other finals, dominant Tunisian shot putter Raoua Tlili, who set the Paralympic record to win the women’s T41 shot put at Rio 2016, set a world record to defend her title in Tokyo with a throw of 10.55 meters.
“I am very happy because this is my fourth Paralympic Games and my fourth gold medal, plus a world record,” she said.
Tlili, who is a person of short stature, is 4-for-4 in the event at the Paralympic Games. She has also won the last four world titles.
“There is lots of work behind it. When I find some obstacles in my life it is not a problem for me because I am very strong to overcome them.
“I have overcome my disability, so why can I not overcome the obstacles of my life?”
China’s Feixia Dong also repeated as Paralympic champion, winning the women’s seated F55 discus throw.
It was a good night for China overall. Zhou Xia won the women’s T35 100-meter crown and Wen Xiaoyan and Jiang Fenfen finished 1-2 in the women’s T37 200.
American soccer player-turned-sprinter Nick Mayhugh won the men’s T37 100-meter title. Mayhugh ran a 10.95 to break the world record he set during the heats earlier in the day.
Brazil’s Petrucio Ferreira won the T47 100 meters, while countrywomen Silvania Costa de Oliveira defended the long jump gold medal she won on home soil five years ago at the Rio Games.
Brazil’s Yeltsin Jacques won the men’s T11 5,000 meters in a time of 15 minutes, 13.62 seconds to beat Japan’s Kenya Karasawa, who clocked 15:18.12 and Shinya Wada, who finished in 15:21.03.
Colombian Jose Gregorio Lemos Rivas set the world record in the standing javelin with throw of 60.31 meters to take the gold.
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