Sit skier Momoka Muraoka won the women’s downhill Alpine skiing event on Saturday to claim Japan’s first gold medal of the Beijing Paralympics.
Muraoka finished in a time of 1 minute, 29.77 seconds to win her second career Paralympic gold medal and go one better than the silver she won in the sitting downhill event four years ago.
The victory puts her on the Paralympic podium for the sixth time in her career and marks a perfect start to her bid for five medals in China.
Muraoka, who said she felt extremely nervous before the race, expressed joy at being able to win a gold medal on the first day of competition in China.
“To be honest, winning a gold medal today made me feel more at ease. I feel a little bit better about racing (in the super-G) tomorrow,” she said.
“I was able to ski my best today as a result of aggressive training,” she added.
Muraoka, who turned 25 on Thursday, competed in wheelchair racing at the Tokyo Paralympics last summer but has since returned to her sit ski.
Germany’s Anna-Lena Forster, the woman tipped to be Muraoka’s main rival across various events at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Center, finished second, 0.82 behind the Japanese skier.
Liu Sitong of China took bronze as the only other racer to complete the course, with four of the seven entrants either crashing or missing a gate.
In the men’s sitting downhill event, all-rounder Taiki Morii, who is pursuing his first Paralympic gold, took home bronze.
“I feel very happy. I’m happy to receive any medal,” Morii said, adding that he was just glad to have been able to finish the course.
“Today I was able to ski without holding back in areas I had done so in the past, so I feel relieved more than anything,” he said.
New Zealand’s Corey Peters took home gold while Jesper Pedersen of Norway won silver. Other Japanese competitors Akira Kano and Takeshi Suzuki finished seventh and eighth, respectively.
Earlier Saturday in the women’s standing downhill event, Japanese competitors Ammi Hondo and Noriko Kamiyama finished sixth and eighth, respectively.
Hiraku Misawa ranked 14th for Japan and Gakuta Koike 21st in the men’s standing downhill.