Paralympians battled for the last medals in swimming and cycling on Friday, while Turkey’s women defended their goalball title as the Tokyo Games headed into their final days.
A whopping 55 gold medals were up for grabs on day 10 of the competition, including the men’s and women’s finals in goalball — one of the few Paralympic sports without an Olympic equivalent.
Women’s champions Turkey beat the United States 9-2, ending the comeback queens’ run of second-half victories. Brazil were set to take on China in the men’s final.
Keiko Sugiura’s Tokyo Paralympics of unique feats continued on Friday when she became the first Japanese woman to win two cycling gold medals while also rewriting her recently set record as the host nation’s oldest gold medalist.
Her gold, as well as one won by Keiichi Kimura in the pool, plus three silver and two bronze elsewhere, made Friday Japan’s most successful day of the Games so far.
The 50-year-old mother of two Sugiura broke away from the peloton on the second lap of the C1-3 road race around Fuji International Speedway and built a 20-second lead by the start of the third and final tour.
She held on for a comfortable 16-second victory, to add the road race title to the time trial she won earlier in the Games.
“After I reached the finish line I couldn’t believe it. It feels amazing. I renewed my record (for oldest Paralympic gold medalist) again,” said Sugiura. “I think I used up all my luck.”
In swimming, there were 16 finals on the last day of competition, and U.S. Paralympic legend Jessica Long added another medal to her bulging collection.
She won the women’s S8 100-meter butterfly to clinch her 29th Paralympic medal — the same number as her age, and more than Michael Phelps’ 28 Olympic medals.
Russian silver medalist Viktoriia Ischchiulova, 16, said Long was “so cool” and “an idol for me.”
“I try to measure up to her, but not to how many medals she has won — I want to win even more — but more to her technique, how she acts before the race, her endurance and overall, how she is as a person, ” Ischchiulova, said.
Meanwhile, Japan got a one-two finish from visually impaired swimmers Kimura and Uchu Tomita in the men’s S11 100-meter butterfly.
It was Kimura’s first Paralympic gold medal. Earlier at these Games, he won a silver medal, when added to the three silver and three bronze he won across the 2012 and 2016 Games, gives him eight in his career.
“I don’t know what the medal looks like, but when I heard the Japanese anthem being played, I realized I had got the gold medal, and the tears just came flooding. It was extremely emotional,” said Kimura, who beat his countryman by just over a second.
It was the third medal for Paralympic debutant Tomita, alongside his earlier silver and bronze.
At the Olympic Stadium, Pakistan’s team won its first ever Paralympic gold.
“It is great to make history for my country again,” said F37 men’s discus thrower Haider Ali. “This gold will be very important for para sport in my country.”
The 36-year-old is also responsible for Pakistan’s only other two Paralympic medals — silver at Beijing 2008, and bronze at Rio 2016.
Wheelchair racer Yuki Oya won silver for Japan when he finished behind American Raymond Martin in the men’s T52 100-meter event.
“I was able to demonstrate my power but I am a little disappointed to have lost to Martin,” said Oya.
Ten years after losing his mother, the person who encouraged him to take up wheelchair racing after he suffered a spinal injury in a workplace fall, Oya said he felt she would be satisfied with his results.
“I promised I would win the gold medal in return (for her encouragement). The color of the medal is different, but I think she would be happy,” he said.
Bronze was the best Japan’s 4×100 universal relay athletics team could manage. The unique race that involves a mix of classifications and genders was won by the United States.
Each team must contain a visually impaired runner, a wheelchair racer, an athlete from the coordination impairment classes as well as an athlete with a limb deficiency.
The Tokyo Games tennis courts were a scene of disappointment for Japan.
Yui Kamiji had her dreams of finally winning an Olympic gold shattered by the Netherlands’ Diede de Groot, the women’s singles top seed beating the second seed 6-3, 7-6(1). Kamiji adds the silver to the bronze she won in the same event in 2016.
Bronze medal-match losses for both Koji Sugeno in quad singles and Shingo Kunieda and Takashi Sanada in men’s doubles earlier in the day compound the pain.
Japan’s women’s goalball team wrapped up its Tokyo Games in style with a 6-1 win over Brazil in the bronze medal match.
Norika Hagiwara scored three goals, two on penalties, and Eiko Kakehata matched her with three of her own to claim the medal.
The medal is Japan’s third in the sport at the Paralympics and first since it won gold in 2012.
With a come-from-behind 79-68 win over Britain, Japan booked a spot in the men’s wheelchair basketball final, taking out the 2016 bronze medal-winning side to get a shot at gold.
Japan’s previous best finish at a Paralympic Games is seventh but it now will be able to put a gold or silver medal in the trophy cabinet thanks to its reliable one-two punch of Renshi Chokai and Hiroaki Kozai.
On Friday it was Chokai who did the most damage, scoring 20 points, while tallying eight rebounds and assists. Kozai put up 17, seven and four.
Individual boccia gold medalist Hidetaka Sugimura kept his hopes of a second medal alive when he and his teammates pulled out a 6-4 win over Brazil in the teams’ final pool game.
Going into the final end locked at 4-4, either team had a chance at advancing to the semifinal at the expense of the other, but Japan prevailed.
Japan will face Thailand for a spot in the final, with Sugimura again coming face to face with Watcharaphon Vongsa, the man he beat for gold in the individual BC2 event.
In the BC3 pairs boccia competition, Japan snuck a tiebreak win in its final pool game to beat Brazil to a semifinal place.
After four ends, the game was locked at 3-3 with Japan snatching the win with a one-point tiebreak end.
New Paralympic events badminton and taekwondo continued a day after Peru’s Leonor Espinoza Carranza won the martial art’s inaugural gold in the women’s K44 under-49 kg.
Her victory means 83 countries have won at least one medal at the Tokyo Games, equaling the record from Rio 2016.
International Paralympic Committee spokesman Craig Spence said the “strength in depth is certainly increasing” in parasports, but admitted there was “still work to do.”
“If you look at the medals table, there’s a north-south divide where you’ve got all the rich nations towards the top and those smaller nations who are less developed at the bottom, and that comes down to assistive technology,” he said. “We want to work with governments around the world to make assistive technologies more affordable for all.”
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