Wheelchair racer Tomoki Sato delivered Japan’s second gold medal of the Tokyo Paralympics on Friday, adding to a silver and bronze for his country on the same National Stadium track earlier in the day.
Sato made a heroic charge down the final straight to claim the first gold of his Paralympic career, adding it to the two silvers he won in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
A total of 45 Paralympic golds were up for grabs on Friday, with a range of sports getting started, including archery, athletics and judo, which is being contested at Tokyo’s iconic Budokan venue.
“The start and first half of the race was at a faster pace than I had expected. It was a tight battle and that made it a little difficult to settle into a rhythm,” Sato said.
The gold medal is Japan’s first in athletics at the Tokyo Paralympics and moved the host nation up to 13th on the medal table at the end of competition on Friday.
Hirokazu Ueyonabaru followed Sato home to take bronze, the 50-year-old’s second Paralympic medal and first since 2008.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s Petrucio Ferreira dos Santos capped a successful day for his nation in the relative cool of the Tokyo evening by blazing home in 10.53 for a new Paralympic record and gold in the men’s T45 100 meters.
“The emotions are hard to describe,” said the 24-year-old, whose arm was amputated below the elbow after a childhood accident.
His victory came despite sustaining a thigh injury a week before the Games.
“That was quite scary, but I tried to focus on my rehab,” he said, describing the support from his wife.
“Maybe she was more nervous than I was,” he added.
“I told her: ‘Stay calm, I am sure I will recover in time and I will go for that medal’.”
His win came after Brazilians earlier claimed the first track-and-field medals of the Tokyo Paralympics, with Yeltsin Jacques kicking things off by squeezing out Japan’s Kenya Karasawa to top the podium in the men’s 5,000-meter T11 final. Japan’s Shinya Wada took home the bronze.
Jacques, who is visually impaired and runs with a guide, said his win was the culmination of five years of training.
“I have speed, I have energy. I’m naturally fast, it’s genetics,” added Jacques, who will also contest the 1,500 meters and marathon in the T11 category.
Karasawa was disappointed at his performance on the track.
“I am disappointed with silver because I had my eye on gold but I ran my race as planned,” Karasawa said. “One major thing I can take away from the race is that I was able to battle to the front in the last lap and put in a performance that I can use (as experience) in the future.”
Fellow Brazilian Silvania Costa de Oliveira, meanwhile, took the first gold of the field events, successfully defending the title she won in Rio in the women’s T11 long jump.
But it wasn’t just Brazilians topping the podium Friday at the Olympic Stadium where athletics is being held, as Tunisian Raoua Tlili claimed shot put gold for a fourth straight Games, beating her previous world record in the F41 final with a throw of 10.55 meters.
The 31-year-old will attempt to repeat the throwing gold double she achieved at the 2016 Rio Games when she competes in the discus next Wednesday.
“When I find some obstacles in my life, it is not a problem for me because I am very strong to overcome them,” she said. “I have overcome my disability, so why can I not overcome the obstacles of my life?”
At judo, Yujiro Seto won his way to the 66-kilogram bronze medal bout via the repechage and then beat Georgia’s Giorgi Gamjashvili for the medal.
The 21-year-old B3 class visually impaired athlete from Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture, won by ippon.
Japan’s wheelchair rugby team claimed the huge scalp of two-time defending Paralympic champions Australia, pushing to a 57-53 win that kept their three-game winning streak alive and booked them a place in the semifinals.
The home nation’s three-pronged attack led by Daisuke Ikezaki’s 24 tries, 14 from Shinichi Shimakawa and 12 from Yukinobu Ike proved too much to handle for Australia.
The Southern Hemisphere team got 30 tries from juggernaut Ryley Batt and 16 from Chris Bond, but little else from their supporting cast.
Japan will face Britain in the semifinals after the Europeans lost to the United States later in the day. Australia will need to beat the Americans to reach a fourth straight gold medal match.
Yuto Sano’s 37-point outing helped Japan’s men’s goalball team to its second win in as many games, this time with an 11-1 defeat of the United States while the women now have a one-draw, one-loss record after their match against Brazil finished 4-4.
Japan remains at the top of its pool in the women’s wheelchair basketball but was handed a major reality check by Canada in the form of a 61-35 defeat, the host country’s first loss of these games.
The team went ice-cold from the floor in the defeat, shooting 16-for-62, with only Ikumi Fujii breaking into double-figures with 10 points.
The men’s wheelchair basketball team did what the women could not, keeping its record unblemished with a 59-52 win over South Korea.
Reo Fujimoto was a standout, scoring 21 points on 71% shooting while Kei Akita chipped in 17 points.
Takashi Sanada earned Japan’s first wheelchair tennis win, taking a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Carlos Anker of the Netherlands.
The 36-year-old, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident, is the ninth seed in the Tokyo men’s singles tournament and is looking to better the round of 16 exits he made at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics.
The Sanada-Anker match was one of just a few that went ahead on schedule at Ariake Tennis Park as soaring temperatures caused delays on all the outdoor courts.
Japan’s sitting volleyball teams were both defeated 3-0, the men going down to the Russian Paralympic Committee and the women to Italy.
In the pool, meanwhile, swimmer Abbas Karimi fell short in his bid to become the first Paralympic refugee team member ever to win a medal after qualifying Friday morning in the men’s S5 50-meter butterfly.
The Afghan-born 24-year-old, who was born with no arms, had said his sights were set firmly on gold.
He was unable to live up to his expectations, finishing last in the final, but refugee team chief Ileana Rodriguez said he had sent a “huge message of hope.”
“We are representing 82 million people who are displaced around the world, and we have 12 million people with a disability who are refugees,” she said. “It’s a huge message that someone can go this far.”
Archery competition also began Friday, with the spotlight on Iranian star Zahra Nemati, who won golds in both Rio and London, and American Matt Stutzman, who famously shoots with his feet.
The 38-year-old Stutzman was sporting a new, slimmer look as he aims to make up for missing out on a medal five years ago.
“I could probably shoot another 300 arrows, like I’m not tired at all, I’m ready to go,” he said after breaking the old Paralympic Games record, but only placing 12th in a high-class competition to decide seedings for the knockout rounds. “I feel like Superman … but not quite.”
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