Tokyo 2020 Paralympics briefing: golden starts for GB and Australia in cycling and swimming

Today in a nutshell: Australia dominated in the pool, China took a clean sweep in the wheelchair fencing, Denmark caused a shock in the wheelchair rugby, and Sarah Storey started with a gold.

Tomorrow’s key moments: there will be more swimming and cycling golds to be had, the powerlifting begins, and we’ll get the first equestrian medals too.

Sarah Storey and Crystal Lane-Wright in their final.
Sarah Storey and Crystal Lane-Wright in their final. Photograph: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Dame Sarah Storey began her quest to become Great Britain’s most successful Paralympian with a huge statement – smashing her own world record in qualifying for the 3000m individual pursuit. She then bested compatriot Crystal Lane-Wright in a re-match of the 2016 Rio final to take ParalympicsGB’s first medals of the Games in a one-two. Forty-three-year-old Storey has now won the event at four successive Games to take her career Paralympic gold medal haul to 15, one short of swimmer Mike Kenny’s British record.

Stephen Bate then claimed a third British medal with a silver in the men’s B 4000m individual pursuit. He and pilot Adam Duggleby were no match for Tristan Bangma of the Netherlands. Bangma and his pilot Patrick Bos set a world record and became the first pair to go under the four minute mark in the event.

Tristan Bangma reacts after beating Stephen Bate, who can be seen in the background.
Tristan Bangma reacts after beating Stephen Bate, who can be seen in the background. Photograph: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Britain’s Reece Dunn also earned a silver in a busy day at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. The world champion was beaten by Brazil’s Gabriel Bandeira in the men’s S14 100m butterfly final. World champion Dunn said: “I knew it would be a tough race but I’m a bit disappointed in my finish.”

Tully Kearney was denied gold in the S5 200m freestyle in heart-breaking fashion after leading throughout, before defending champion Zhang Li snatched victory at the last with a winning margin of just 0.12 seconds. Twenty-four-year-old Kearney said afterwards: “I’ve not had that much training, I’ve been dealing with injuries and things; I was nervous my fitness wouldn’t be good enough to swim 200 so to go that close was pretty impressive and I’ve got to be pleased with that.”

But it was Australia’s day in the pool, with four gold medals. William Martin took gold in the men’s 400m freestyle S9 while Lakeisha Patterson won the equivalent race for the women. Rowan Crothers became champion in the men’s 50m freestyle S10, with Ben Popham taking the final gold in the pool for today in the men’s 100m freestyle S8.

William Martin rests after men’s 400m freestyle S9 final.
William Martin rests after men’s 400m freestyle S9 final. Photograph: Emilio Morenatti/AP

Russian Paralympic Committee athlete Valeriia Shabalina smashed her own world record in the women’s 100m butterfly S14. The silver and bronze went to Australia’s Paige Leonhardt and Ruby Storm respectively. Roman Zhdanov and Anastaslia Gontar also won their events for the RPC.

Valeriia Shabalina competing in the 100m Butterfly S14 final.
Valeriia Shabalina competing in the 100m butterfly S14 final. Photograph: OIS/Bob Martin/REX/Shutterstock

An ominous note continues to sound in the background in Japan, though – two more athletes have tested positive for Covid-19 in the Paralympic village, with officials awaiting information to confirm if a cluster of infection has broken out. The news comes as ParalympicsGB announced a member of their coaching staff, part of the wheelchair tennis team, has been confirmed as having the virus and is now in isolation.

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The briefing’s picture of the day

The first two days of table tennis are a packed schedule of group matches, with eight tables in action simultaneously. They contest reaches the quarter-final stages on Friday. Pictured is Egypt’s 48-year-old Ibrahim Elhusseiny Hamadtou. He lost his arms in a train accident when he was ten, and plays with the bat in his mouth, serving by flicking the ball up with this foot.

Ibrahim Elhusseiny Hamadtou of Egypt playing in the class 6 men’s singles in the table tennis.
Ibrahim Elhusseiny Hamadtou of Egypt playing in the class 6 men’s singles in the table tennis. Photograph: OIS/Bob Martin/REX/Shutterstock

You can see the best pictures from the day’s action in our photo gallery.

🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺 Australia update

Even before the gold rush in the pool, Australia’s Paralympic Games had got under way in a stunning fashion, with the first two golds on offer at these Games won inside a remarkable 15 minutes at the velodrome in Izu.

Paige Greco of Australia.
Paige Greco of Australia. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

Paige Greco, who set a world record in qualifying for the women’s C3 individual 3000m pursuit final, then bettered her own benchmark against China’s Wang Xiaomei to claim the nation’s first medal. She said: “It feels amazing. I still can’t believe it. I keep looking down and seeing the gold medal. It’s not really sunk in yet. It means so much.”

Barely a quarter-of-an-hour later, teammate Emily Petricola, 41, made it a double with victory in the C4 classification, having also broken the world record to reach the gold medal final.

Emily Petricola of Australia competing in the C4 3000m Individual Pursuit final.
Emily Petricola of Australia competing in the C4 3000m Individual Pursuit final. Photograph: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile/Getty Images

🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧 ParalympicsGB update

Britain’s women wheelchair basketball team were well-beaten by Canada in their opening Group A match. Kathleen Dandeneau was Canada’s imperious star player, with 32 individual points. After the victory, Dandeneau said: “Everything started to come together, we found that rhythm. It’s really just about weathering the tough times to get to the good, and that’s exactly what we did.”

Kathleen Dandeneau of Canada in action.
Kathleen Dandeneau of Canada in action. Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Paralympic champion Ellie Robinson, who will defend her 50m butterfly title next week, opted to withdraw from the S6 50m freestyle ahead of the heats in order to focus on her other events. There was another British medal in the pool however, with Toni Shaw having claimed bronze in the women’s 400m freestyle S9. It means that Kearney, Dunn and Shaw have all won medals on their paralympic debuts.

Toni Shaw with her Bronze medal.
Toni Shaw with her Bronze medal. Photograph: Joel Marklund for OIS/PA

A tight wheelchair rugby group game saw the ParalympicsGB team edge out Canada 50-47 in their opening group games.

🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 Team USA update

If that Great Britain v Canada wheelchair rugby clash was tight, the one between the US and New Zealand was not, with the US winning a one-sided affair 63-35. It was Denmark’s unexpected victory over reigning champions Australia 54-53 that caught the eye on the opening day however.

Led by Charles Melton, the USA sing their national anthem prior to the match against “the Wheel Blacks”.
Led by Charles Melton, the USA sing their national anthem prior to the match against “the Wheel Blacks”. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

There were two opening day medals for the US – both of them silver. Elizabeth Marks was the middle bit of a Ukrainian sandwich in the women’s 50m freestyle S6 final. She finished ahead of Anna Hontar, but 0.04 seconds behind Yelyzaveta Mereshko. In the velodrome, Shawn Morelli earned silver in the women’s C4 3000m individual pursuit.

🇯🇵🇯🇵🇯🇵 The hosts and beyond

Fourteen-year-old Miyuki Yamada became Japan’s youngest ever Paralympic medalist – with their first of these Games – with a silver in the women’s 100m backstroke S2. She finished behind Singapore’s Pin Xiu Yip, who was claiming her fifth Paralympic title after previously securing golds in Beijing and Rio. There were also opening day gold medals for Italy, Brazil, Belarus, Chile and Israel in the swimming.

Miyuki Yamada poolside at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
Miyuki Yamada poolside at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Photograph: YUTAKA/AFLO/REX/Shutterstock

China secured an impressive clean sweep in the wheelchair fencing, taking the gold in the men’s and women’s individual sabre in both category A and category B. They also picked up two bronzes in the Makuhari Messe for good measure. Britain’s Piers Gilliver’s interest was ended in the round of 16 by the eventual winner Li Hao.

Li Hao of China (L) competes against Piers Gilliver of Britain during the Men’s Sabre Individual category A round of 16.
Li Hao of China (L) competes against Piers Gilliver of Britain during the Men’s Sabre Individual category A round of 16. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

The International Paralympic Committee has confirmed that Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli, the two Afghan athletes set to compete at the Paralympics, have been safely evacuated from Afghanistan.

Did you know?

Five countries are making their debut appearance at these Games with Bhutan, Guyana, Maldives, Paraguay and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines sending Paralympians to compete for the first time.

Key events for Thursday 26 August

All events are listed here in local Tokyo time. Add an hour for Sydney, subtract eight hours for Manchester, 13 hours for New York and 16 hours for San Francisco.

🌟If you only watch one thing: 10am-2.57pm Track Cycling – there are races all Thursday morning, and then from 1.45pm we get into the women’s 3000m individual pursuit finals in three classes, with the men’s B 4000m individual pursuit final to round off Thursday at the velodrome 🥇

  • 9am-11.16am and 5pm-8.01pm Swimming – after a morning of heats, Thursday’s evening session features what should be an hour’s worth of entertaining 100m finals followed by the mixed 4x50m freestyle relay 20 points final 🥇

  • 9am-2.20pm and 4pm-10pm Table tennis – there’s more table tennis than you can shake a stick at again on Thursday with more than 128 group stage games taking place.

  • 9am-8.30pm Wheelchair basketball – there are group games for both men and women all day, notably the US men face Germany at 9am, Great Britain’s women face the hosts at 11.15am in a game they need to win, and the British men face Algeria at 2.45pm.

  • 9am-8.30pm Goalball – there are seven preliminary matches in both the men’s and women’s competition scattered through the day, with the USA men clashing with Brazil at 1.15pm probably being the pick of the bunch.

  • 11am and 1pm and 4.30pm and 6.30pm Powerlifting – a busy day as in order it goes men’s -49kg final, women’s -41kg final, women’s -45kg final and then the men’s -54kg final 🥇

  • 4pm-8.31pm Equestrian – 47-year-old Lee Pearson has 11 Paralympic gold medals behind him, but there will be something different about competing this year, as it is the first time he will have a young family to cheer him on – albeit remotely. In a rather ambitious lockdown project, Pearson became a foster father for the first time last year. His Grade II individual dressage test is first up 🐴🥇

  • 6pm-8.30pm Wheelchair fencing – preliminaries are on all day from 9am but we get to the business end at 6pm on Thursday, with medals to be won in the men’s and women’s épée individual, in both category A and category B 🥇

As it stands

Like West Ham being top of the Premier League on goals scored after two matches, here’s how the somewhat irrational-looking and embryonic emoji table stood at 9pm Tokyo time. Savour this one Australia, because I doubt there will be many days when China are not top.

1 🇦🇺 Australia 🥇 6 🥈 1 🥉 3 total: 10
2 🇨🇳 China 🥇 5 🥈 1 🥉 2 total: 8
3 ◻️ Not Russia 🥇 3 🥈 1 🥉 2 total: 6
4 🇮🇹 Italy 🥇 2 🥈 1 🥉 2 total: 5
5 🇺🇦 Ukraine 🥇 1 🥈 5 🥉 2 total: 8
6 🇬🇧 Great Britain 🥇 1 🥈 4 🥉 1 total: 6
7 🇧🇷 Brazil 🥇 1 🥈 1 🥉 2 total: 4
8 🇳🇱 Netherlands 🥇 1 🥈 1 🥉 0 total: 2
9 🇧🇾 Belarus 🥇 1 🥈 0 🥉 0 total: 1
9 🇨🇱 Chile 🥇 1 🥈 0 🥉 0 total: 1
9 🇮🇱 Israel 🥇 1 🥈 0 🥉 0 total: 1
9 🇸🇬 Singapore 🥇 1 🥈 0 🥉 0 total: 1

Get in touch

Something I’d been meaning to say, the Olympics had 19 days of sport and featured 339 gold medals – well 340 because of the double high jump gold – and there was no way that I could get to mention them all individually in this series of briefings. The Paralympics has even more medals (539) in a shorter timespan of 12 days.

So I’m aiming for informative rather than exhaustive, it is a briefing after all. Please don’t feel I have besmirched the reputation of your favourite nation if I neglect to mention that they’ve won a gold somewhere. We do have this though – a comprehensive results service on the Guardian website, and an interactive medal table with proper flags instead of emojis and a much lower risk that I’ve typed it in wrong.

One way of making sure I do mention something you are looking forward to – you can get in touch with me at martin.belam@theguardian.com and pester me in advance. I’ll see you at the same time tomorrow, take care and stay safe.

The last word

Sarah Storey of Great Britain after winning gold in the women’s C5 3000m individual pursuit final.
Sarah Storey of Great Britain after winning gold in the women’s C5 3000m individual pursuit final. Photograph: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com/REX/Shutterstock

Being in an empty stadium we have to be prepared to race like that, but once you finish racing that’s when it hits you, literally the stands are empty. Racing in a pandemic is hard. But it’s when you want to celebrate with people you realise you don’t have your friends and family here. We can celebrate with the team, which is obviously amazing, but there is a bigger team behind the team you see here today and now more than ever they’re missed. – Sarah Storey

Contributor

Martin Belam

The GuardianTramp

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