Golden start for Australia’s Paralympians as track cycling world records tumble

  • Paige Greco and Emily Petricola claim quick-fire gold medals
  • Australia win four swimming golds on successful evening

Australia’s Paralympics got under way in stunning fashion on the opening day of competition in Tokyo, with the first two gold medals on offer at these Games won inside a remarkable 15 minutes at the velodrome in Izu, before the swimmers added another three.

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.

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.

So dominant was Petricola’s victory over rival and silver medallist Shawn Morelli, she lapped the American on her way to securing victory well before completing the 3,000m.

Petricola, who was diagnosed with MS at the age of 27, paid tribute to two-time Olympic rower Matt Ryan and Shane Kelly, the five-time Olympic cyclist, in an emotional post-race interview for the pair’s encouragement and support throughout her career.

“Words can’t describe how grateful I am to Matt Ryan and Shane Kelly for what they did for me early on in the piece,” she told Channel Seven. “They’ve changed my life and they saved my life. I was in such a dark place when Matt suggested this.”

The Australians’ world records were among eight new benchmarks set on the opening day of cycling, and the two gold medals propelled the team to the top of the nascent medal table.

Greco, who has cerebral palsy, is making her Paralympic debut in Tokyo but she is used to pocketing gold – her first Paralympic medal comes after she won three gold medals on the 2019 UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup circuit. She is also reigning world champion in the women’s time trial C3.

“Sorry,” she told Channel Seven through tears. “I’m just so happy. Can’t believe we did it. It was a good race. Yeah. I still can’t believe it. I can’t thank the team at AusCycling [enough], my coach, their support is amazing. My family and friends, wouldn’t be here without them.”

Rowan Crothers
Rowan Crothers’s reaction to winning men’s 50m freestyle S10 category. Photograph: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Compatriot Meg Lemon lost her C4 pursuit bronze medal ride-off to Canadian Shawn Keely.

Later, Will Martin broke the Paralympic record and Lakeisha Patterson held off a fierce challenge, before Rowan Crothers added a third and Ben Popham a fourth gold medal on a hugely successful opening night of swimming finals.

Martin and Patterson won the first two swimming gold medals at the Games, taking out the S9 400m freestyle events at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Martin stunned his rivals in the 400m freestyle, going out fast in the finals taking more than seven seconds off his heat time.

The 20-year-old Games debutant from Queensland won in a Games record time of four minutes 10.25 seconds, beating Ugo Didier of France by 1.08s. Sixteen-year-old Australian Alexander Tuckfield won the bronze and compatriot Brenden Hall, the world record holder, was a surprise fourth.

Patterson also took the early lead in her 400 final as six-time Australian gold medallist Ellie Cole dropped off the pace. It came down to Patterson and Hungarian Zsofia Konkoly, who briefly took the lead on the last lap. But Patterson rallied to touch the wall first in 4:36.68s, just .08 of a second ahead of Konkoly.

Crothers charged home in the men’s 50m freestyle S10 category five hundredths of a second outside the world record. Maksym Krypak and Phelipe Melo Rodrigues were on his shoulder the whole way but the Ukrainian settled for silver and the Brazilian for bronze.

Popham won the last event of the night, bursting into tears when his blistering finish gave him the S8 100m freestyle gold. “Australia is having another mining boom – it’s a bit of a gold rush and I’m loving it,” he told Channel Seven.

Ben Hance won bronze in the S14 100m butterfly, while Valeriia Shabalina’s world record denied Australian pair Paige Leonhardt and Ruby Storm in their S14 100m butterfly final. The Russian clocked 1:03.59 to beat Leonhardt by 1.89 seconds and Storm was 2.91 seconds off the pace for the bronze.

But not everything went to plan for Australia on day one – the Steelers’ shock loss to Denmark put an early dent in their quest for a third-straight wheelchair rugby gold medal.


Guardian sport

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Australia’s Paralympians to get same medal bonus as Olympians after government recognises efforts
Olympics gold medallists got a $20,000 reward but there was no similar bonus scheme for Paralympians due to funding disparity

Mike Hytner

02, Sep, 2021 @5:31 AM

Article image
Australian swimmers deliver more Paralympics gold as world records tumble
Australia won four gold medals and broke two world records on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, after a golden night in the pool was capped off with a win in the track and field

Guardian sport and agencies

02, Sep, 2021 @11:48 AM

Article image
Innovation and inner strength: the stories behind Australia’s Paralympians | Kieran Pender
Guardian Australia spent time with some of the athletes, coaches and staff collectively going for gold in Tokyo. Here are their stories

Kieran Pender

23, Aug, 2021 @5:30 PM

Article image
Darren Hicks adds Paralympic road cycling gold to track silver medal
Darren Hicks has won the first road cycling event of the Paralympic Games, taking out the men's C2 time trial in Tokyo

Guardian sport and agencies

31, Aug, 2021 @2:29 AM

Article image
Australia’s Olympians got a $20,000 bonus for a gold medal, our Paralympians get nothing
The stark disparity of the money awarded to able-bodied Olympians has been highlighted during the Tokyo Games

Emma Kemp

01, Sep, 2021 @6:08 AM

Article image
Australia’s goalball team set for next chapter in ‘historic’ Paralympics run | Emma Kemp
The Belles had not won at the Games for 25 years until they arrived in Tokyo. Now they are one win away from a semi-final berth

Emma Kemp

31, Aug, 2021 @12:59 AM

Article image
‘I spent the last lap fighting back tears’: the ‘Flying Mullet’ lets it all out after Paralympic cycling race
Unlucky Australian Alistair Donohoe again missed out on a medal before dedicating his efforts in Tokyo to a friend who had recently died

Luke Henriques-Gomes

03, Sep, 2021 @9:58 AM

Article image
Amanda Reid breaks own world record to add another Paralympic gold for Australia
The 24-year-old broke her own world record and then said she hoped her success would inspire other Indigenous Australians with disabilities to get into sport

Mike Hytner

27, Aug, 2021 @3:37 AM

Article image
Jaryd Clifford: ‘Sport is so much more than a medal’ | Luke Henriques-Gomes
Jaryd Clifford was disappointed with his silver medal in the men’s 5000m T13 but still appreciated how far he had come

Luke Henriques-Gomes

28, Aug, 2021 @9:36 AM

Article image
Dylan Alcott’s golden year continues at Tokyo Paralympic Games | Emma Kemp
Victory in the quad singles at Tokyo means Dylan Alcott requires just the US Open to complete a calendar year golden slam

Emma Kemp

04, Sep, 2021 @8:06 AM