Australia enjoyed another successful day at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, adding to Amanda Reid’s world record-breaking triumph early on Friday with another two silver and two bronze medals later in the day.
Reid’s performance in the C1-3 500m category was the unquestionable highlight of the action, but an impressive qualifying ride from fellow cyclist, Alistair Donohoe, was enough to secure a berth in men’s C5 4000m individual pursuit gold medal race – and an eventual silver.
At the athletics track, meanwhile, all eyes were on Australian sprinter Isis Holt, who was hoping to add an elusive Paralympic gold in the 100m T35 to her world championship crown and 2018 Commonwealth Games win.
Holt broke the world record in the heats, but in a repeat of Rio 2016, when she burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old, she found herself unable to reel in China’s Zhou Xia in the final.
It was a personal best time of 13.13 seconds for the 20-year-old Holt in the final, but Zhou, 22, left with the gold and a new world record of 13.00 seconds after a blistering start to the race.
Holt, who lives with cerebral palsy, took a break at 17 to focus on her education, before returning to the sport in 2020 with an eye on gold at Tokyo.
And if she was disappointed to fall short once again, she didn’t show it.
“I wasn’t expecting a time like that today,” she told Channel Seven. “It would’ve been awesome to win that final but that PB for me is insane. For me, that’s a world record, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Holt, who is now studying neuroscience at university, admitted she was not sure she would be back as a sprinter when she was away from the track.
“After the Commonwealth Games, I thought was if for me,” Holt said. “But towards the end of Year 12, I just happened to get up some of my old races, and yeah, I just got the bug for it again.”
Holt will return to the track for the 200m.
In the men’s F38 javelin, Queenslander Corey Anderson went into the event as the world record holder, but finished fourth, losing his podium position in the final round.
At the Izu Velodrome, Donohoe, 26, claimed a coveted silver in the gold medal race against French 23-year-old Dorian Foulon.
Donohoe, who has stood out the Games not just for his performance but also his striking mullet haircut, looked delighted with the result, embracing an emotional Foulon post-race.
The result matches the silver “the Flying Mullet” won in the same event in Rio. Post-race, he conceded silver was “bittersweet”.
“There was immediate disappointment because, not going to lie, you come here dreaming of gold,” he told Channel Seven. “It’s been like a five-year process.”
Still, to make the gold medal race was itself an impressive feat, given Donohoe was on track to qualify to finish in fifth place before storming home in the final lap.
“It’s phenomenal to have this silver medal,” he said. “To be here, I think, I was going to be way more disappointed with a silver than I am. It’s still such an amazing achievement.
“To qualify like that, that final ride-off … that’s what dreams are made of. Those times are so red-hot. I did a five-second PB. I cannot be upset one bit.”
The Northern Territorian, who was born in Arnhem Land, was 15 years old when severed his bicep and tricep in a freak accident as he jumped from a tree into a creek, and a rope swing wrapped around his arm.
Donohoe became emotional when asked about the sacrifices he had made to make it to Tokyo, dropping a few F-bombs on live TV as he considered the toll it had taken.
“I want to say sorry and thank you,” he said. “Sorry for the, fuck, the birthdays I’ve missed, the family holidays I’ve missed. Fuck. Being an athlete, it feels selfish sometimes.”
Donohoe will also be riding for redemption in next week’s road race, after a late finish-line crash crushed his dreams of gold at the Rio Games.
In the pool, there were two more medals for Australia.
Tiffany Thomas Kane was good enough for third in a thrilling scramble for the minor medals. Her bronze in the women’s 200m individual medley SM7 matched her third-place finish from Rio, but this time in a higher classification.
Thomas-Kane, 20, said she had battled injury early in the year, after rupturing her liver.
“I didn’t think it was going to be a possibility, I had so much time out of the water and the Games were so close,” she told Channel Seven.
A teary Thomas-Kane dedicated the medal to her late grandmother.
The youngest Australian Paralympian in Tokyo, 15-year-old Isabella Vincent, finished sixth in the same race.
Katja Dedekind, 20, also won her second bronze of Tokyo 2020, holding off a fast-finishing Shokhsanamkhon Toshpulatova of Uzbekistan in the women’s 400m S13.
In the wheelchair basketball competition, Australia’s Rollers are looking strong, easily despatching Algeria, 83-37, in their second preliminary round match.
Tougher matches are likely to follow against against Germany, the United States and Great Britain in the coming days.
“It’s another good win ... a good way to start,” said Tom O’Neill-Thorne, who scored 11 points against Algeria.
“Usually we start a little slow in these tournaments and have to pick up our groove, but all 12 of us are playing really well.
And the Steelers will move through to the wheelchair rugby knock-outs, despite a loss to unbeaten Japan.
The Steelers, who are the reigning Paralympic champions, went down 57-54 to the hosts, who have looked formidable in their first three matches.