• AFP-JIJI, KYODO

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Fencing icon Beatrice “Bebe” Vio successfully defended her women’s Paralympic gold on Saturday as Afghanistan’s two athletes arrived in Tokyo to compete in the Games.

Vio, one of the world’s best-known Paralympians, was in unstoppable form as she defeated China’s Zhou Jingjing 15-9 in the women’s individual foil category B gold medal match, just as she had done in Rio five years ago.

The 24-year-old Italian, who had both forearms and legs amputated when she contracted meningitis as an 11-year-old, screamed in joy before bursting into tears in the arms of her coach after the winning point was scored.

On day four of the competition, a total of 54 gold medals were up for grabs across nine different sports, including 17 athletics finals at the Olympic Stadium.

The number of teams taking part rose to 163 as the International Paralympic Committee said Afghanistan’s Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli had arrived safely in the athletes village.

Khudadadi and Rasouli were evacuated last weekend to France as the Taliban took control of their country, it said.

They will compete next week in taekwondo and athletics, and are “sending out a strong message of hope”, IPC chief Andrew Parsons said.

The triathlon competitors endured a sweltering morning in the Tokyo Bay area, though it did not stop Hideki Uda and Satoru Yoneoka from swimming, pedaling and running to Japan’s first two Paralympic medals in the sport.

Uda was second in the men’s PTS4 class, beaten by 3 minutes, 47 seconds by Frenchman Alexis Hanquiquant. Yoneoka finished third, 1:04 behind American Brad Snyder in the men’s PTVI event.

“When I finished the race, I had a hard time controlling my emotions because I was overwhelmed with various feelings,” said Uda. “I felt really happy running that final stretch.”

Japan’s dream of wheelchair rugby gold ended in a 55-49 semifinal loss to Britain.

Stifling defense from the European champion put the clamps on the Japanese, whose try total was approximately seven less than they had averaged in their first three games.

“We knew the Japanese people had high expectations for us, and I really wanted to make them happy, but today, our best wasn’t good enough,” an emotional Daisuke Ikezaki, who led Japan with 13 tries, said in the wake of the loss. “People went to so much effort to hold the Paralympics during this difficult coronavirus situation. But we couldn’t meet expectations, and that’s the really disappointing thing for me.”

Swimmer Takayuki Suzuki remained on track to meet his goal of winning a medal in every individual event he contests at the Tokyo Games, this time touching in the bronze position for his third medal.

Suzuki took his latest medal in the men’s SM4 150-meter individual medley, adding it to the gold and bronze he’d already won in the 100-meter freestyle and 50-meter breaststroke, respectively.

In athletics, U.S. wheelchair racing legend Tatyana McFadden won her 18th Paralympic medal — taking bronze in the women’s T54 5,000m to extend her streak of finishing on the podium in every Paralympic race she has entered since 2008.

But she said just competing in Tokyo was a victory in itself, having been diagnosed with a blood-clotting disorder in 2017 that required an almost two-year recovery period.

“I’m on cloud nine,” said the 32-year-old, who was born in Russia and raised in an orphanage until she was adopted at the age of 6. “I was in a really dark spot because it took me 20 months to recover, and everyone was getting better in those 20 months.”

McFadden added that it was “quite amazing” that she took the bronze behind U.S. teammate Susannah Scaroni, who won gold.

Fleur Jong of the Netherlands won the women’s T64 long jump, beating French defending champion Marie-Amelie Le Fur with a jump of 6.16 meters.

Le Fur, a three-time Paralympic gold medalist, said she would retire after the competition.

“The time has come to finish it here in Tokyo,” said the 32-year-old. “I’m proud to do so with this performance and with these extraordinary girls. There are no regrets.”

Spain’s Susana Rodriguez, who helped fight the coronavirus in her job as a doctor, won gold in the women’s PTVI triathlon.

Rodriguez, who fitted hours training for the Paralympics in between helping patients recover from the most severe infections, will also compete in the 1,500 meters at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday.

“I will try to relax now and try to recover my legs,” she said. “I need to keep calm because this situation gave me a lot of adrenaline.”

Britain’s Kadeena Cox will also turn her attention to athletics after winning her second cycling gold in the team sprint. She will try to defend her T38 400-meter title next week.

Also at the velodrome, husband and wife Neil and Lora Fachie of Britain won gold within 15 minutes of each other.

The boccia competition got under way with all four individual gold medalists from the Rio Games returning to defend their titles.

Hong Kong’s BC4 champion Leung Yuk-wing will try to repeat his Athens 2004 feat of winning gold in individual and pairs events.

“I am trying to be relaxed to face the game because just thinking about being the champion or the gold medal would be a lot of pressure,” he said.

Japan’s goalballers had a two-win day, the men’s team beating Lithuania 10-2 to stay on top of its group, while the women got their first win, topping the United States. 3-2. The women’s team now sits third in its group and in good position to reach the quarterfinals.

Only one Japanese judoka reached a medal bout on Saturday.

Junko Hirose came up against Turkish fighter Zeynep Celik for bronze, but she left the Nippon Budokan empty-handed, going out with an ippon loss.

In wheelchair basketball, Japan’s men made a fourth-quarter push to turn a six-point deficit into a six-point win over Canada. Hiroaki Kozai was the main man, scoring 24 points with Takuya Furusawa contributing 14.

Maki Ito lost in the semifinal of the class 11 event in women’s table tennis to earn bronze.

The 36-year-old intellectually impaired athlete lost in straight games to Lea Ferney of France but went two places better than her fifth place effort at the 2016 Paralympics.

Japan’s wheelchair tennis top guns made their first appearances on the Ariake Tennis Center courts.

Women’s WT class medal favorite Yui Kamiji cruised through her opening round singles match in straight sets, as did three-time Paralympic gold medalist Shingo Kunieda in the men’s WT class.

Koji Sugeno was a first-round winner in quad singles but Mitsuteru Moroishi ran up against Australia’s defending Olympic champion Dylan Alcott and was easily dispatched.

Manami Tanaka and Momoko Ohtani progressed in women’s singles WT class.

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