Badminton player Sarina Satomi earned Japan’s ninth gold medal and tennis legend Shingo Kunieda made it 10 as wheelchair racket sports delivered the goods for Japan on Saturday’s penultimate day of Paralympics action in Tokyo.
Satomi won the WH1 singles badminton crown to become the first-ever female badminton Paralympic title winner, while at the other end of the spectrum Kunieda won his fourth Paralympic gold.
Going into the Games’ final day, Japan has 10 gold, 14 silver and 19 bronze. It is the first time the country has reached a double-figure gold total since it won 17 at the 2004 Games in Athens.
Satomi, 23, overcame a slow start to defeat Sujirat Pookkham of Thailand 14-21, 21-19, 21-13 in wheelchair badminton’s Paralympic debut — a win that showed great resilience.
She weathered a period of fine play from Sujirat to take the second game and then overwhelmed the Thai, who appeared to be struggling with a shoulder complaint, in the third.
“I am incredibly happy, it is like a dream,” Satomi said. “I have worked hard for this moment and for this day so I am very happy to win the gold I have been aiming for.”
Japan’s Ayako Suzuki took silver after being defeated in the SU5 gold medal game, then Akiko Sugino won bronze in the same class for players with limb deficiencies. That was followed by Yuma Yamazaki winning women’s WH2 wheelchair bronze, and Noriko Ito and Suzuki, returning for her second medal of the night, taking SL3-SU5 doubles bronze.
Earlier, Cheah Liek Hou of Malaysia had the honor of winning the first Paralympics badminton gold in history when he beat Indonesia’s Dheva Anrimusthi 21-17, 21-15 in the men’s singles SU5 final.
Kunieda last won a Paralympic wheelchair tennis singles gold in 2012 and on Saturday he made sure he would wait no longer by demolishing Dutch player Tom Egberink in straight sets at Ariake Tennis Park.
Kunieda broke Egberink’s serve three times in the first set and twice in the second as he ran out a 6-1, 6-2 winner. The 37-year-old, who has 45 Grand Slam titles to his name, played an aggressive match, particularly attacking Egberink’s serve by meeting the ball early inside the baseline.
“I feel like I’m still in a dream, but I have done everything for this day, so I’m glad that everything paid off,” an emotional Kunieda said. “I knew what I needed to do, and I concentrated on delivering that on the court without giving a thought about what it means to winning or losing.”
Yui Kamiji shook off her tennis singles gold medal match disappointment from Friday to earn bronze in the women’s wheelchair doubles.
Kamiji and partner Momoko Ohtani topped the Chinese duo of Wang Ziying and Zhu Zhenzhen 6-2, 7-6(3).
“As the third seeds, I took the court knowing we must win this no matter what, so I’m glad we were able to do that in the end,” Kamiji, who now has three Paralympic medals, said.
On the boccia courts, Japan just missed a second gold when its BC3 pairs team lost a tiebreak end to South Korea after the final was deadlocked 4-4 at the end of regulation.
Trailing 4-1 coming into the fourth and final regulation end, the Japanese team of Keisuke Kawamoto, Kazuki Takahashi and Keiko Tanaka came roaring back with three points to extend the contest.
In the rollercoaster tiebreak end, the South Korean team held firm to clinch the point needed to win the competition for athletes with significantly limited function in their arms and legs.
Meanwhile, Hidetaka Sugimura won his second medal of the games when Japan’s BC1/BC2 boccia team beat Portugal 4-3 for bronze thanks to a sixth-end deadlock-breaking point.
Earlier in the day, Hannah Cockroft and Nick Mayhugh enjoyed yet more success on the athletics track, with Britain’s Cockroft winning the seventh Paralympic gold of her career.
“Hurricane Hannah” clocked 1 minute 48.99 seconds in the T34 800 meters, obliterating her own Paralympic record set in Rio by almost 12 seconds.
“I don’t think it will ever sink in,” Cockroft said of winning her second Tokyo gold to go with her three golds won at Rio 2016 and two from London 2012. “Not many athletes get the privilege of doing this for 10 years or get to stand on the podium that many times.”
American Mayhugh smashed his own world record, set only the day before, to take gold in the men’s T37 200 meters in 21.91 seconds.
“I know I’ll never be able to run 9.5 for the 100 meters, but I want to be the Usain Bolt of the Paralympics,” said the former footballer, who claimed his third Tokyo gold.
International Paralympic Committee spokesperson Craig Spence hailed “an amazing team effort” that enabled the Games to take place in a pandemic.
“It’s remarkable. There were doubts in the past two years when I thought these Games weren’t going to happen,” Spence told reporters. “We took inspiration from our athletes. They seem to make the impossible possible. The sporting performances have been out of this world.”
But there was a note of controversy when Peter Genyn of Belgium claimed his wheelchair had been sabotaged and had to be patched up with duct tape before he won the T51 100 meters late on Friday night.
“We had just arrived 45 minutes before the warm-up and we had three flat tires and a broken compensator,” he said. “The day before we had a flat front tire, and it looked like a knife but we didn’t want to believe it.”
There was more success for Australia and Britain as the sprint canoeing program concluded at the Sea Forest Waterway.
Australia’s Curtis McGrath, who lost his legs when he trod on an explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, won his second gold in the men’s VL3 final.
Midfielder Raimundo Mendes scored the only goal of the game as Brazil beat Argentina 1-0 in a clash of South American football giants in the five-a-side gold medal match.
And Iran, featuring the Games’ tallest athlete in 246-centimeter Morteza Mehrzadselakjani, topped the podium in men’s sitting volleyball, beating the Russian team 25-21, 25-14, 19-25, 25-17.
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