After Darren Hicks claimed the men’s C2 time trial could not suit him any more “if it tried”, the Australian para-cyclist had arguably increased the pressure on his shoulders heading into Tuesday’s race at the Fuji Speedway circuit.
Yet the 36-year-old, whose leg was partially amputated following a truck crash seven years ago, shrugged off any heightened expectations – perceived or otherwise – to add a gold medal to the silver he won in the velodrome last week.
Hicks, who came second in the men’s C2 3,000m individual pursuit on the track in Izu but says the road is really his “happy place”, completed three laps of the challenging 8km road circuit in 34 minutes 39.78 seconds.
That was more than a minute and a half quicker than his nearest rival, Ewoud Vromant of Belgium, who won silver. Alexandre Leaute claimed bronze for France.
After the race, an emotional Hicks struggled for words, but the Adelaide-based athlete managed to articulate a message for his wife Carys, watching on back at home.
“Sorry I stressed you out babe, but we got there,” he told the Seven Network.
“I think I’ll be excited later, but for now it’s relief. I’ve worked so hard for this and wanted it for so long … I’m just so happy.
“The warmup was perfect, I’ve never had my heart rate so low. My leg felt perfect. I just Went out and executed the plan. Just let it all loose on the third. It worked out brilliant.”
The fast corners, touch climbs and aero straights suited Hicks and his dominant win provided the perfect springboard for his teammates on a day when 10 Australians are in action in road cycling competition.
Fellow Australian riders Paige Greco and Emily Petricola also tasted double medal success. Queenslander Greco collected bronze in the women’s C1-3 time trial behind hometown favourite Keiko Sugiura after winning an individual pursuit gold medal while in the C4 division, Petricola won silver while and Meg Lemon bagged bronze and Alistair Donohoe (bronze) also finished on the podium.
Petricola, aged 41 and making her Paralympics debut, was just 9.3 seconds off Morelli’s winning time. Also an individual pursuit gold medallist, Petricola said she was a little down about missing another gold.
“Part of me is a little bit disappointed,” she said. “But I couldn’t have done more than I did today – I was a bit unlucky with some of the traffic out there but that’s part racing on the road.”
At the athletics track, James Turner lived up to his top billing, winning the men’s T36 400m final at the Olympic Stadium. Already the world record holder, the Canberra athlete set a Paralympics record en route to his gold medal.
He struggled in the humidity post race, collapsing briefly after doing some media interviews but was back on his feet before long. “I’ve got a headache and it hurt but it’s all worth it,” Turner told the Seven Network. “It’s my job to win – that’s what I’m here to do.”
Turner, who has cerebral palsy, already has a Paralympic gold after winning the 800m in 2016, with the event cut from the athletics program in Tokyo. The 25-year-old crossed the line in 52.80 seconds – outside his world best time of 51.71 second – but 0.8 seconds clear of Russian Evgenii Shvetsov with Kiwi William Stedman third.
On Tuesday night, swimmer Col Pearse broke down in tears after overcoming Victoria’s repeated lockdowns to win his first Paralympics medal. The 18-year-old VCE student was fearing the wrath of his friends as he became an endearing, blubbering mess on TV after his S10 100m butterfly bronze.
“My boys are going to rip into me for this ... do not make memes over me crying, please,” he told the Seven Network. “It’s been a hard 18 months in Victoria [and] it just means the world to me to finally go on the podium. Eighteen months ago I didn’t think this was possible.”
Pearse and his family famously set up a training pool in a dam last year on the family farm near Echuca, complete with lane ropes, so he could train while pools were shut. Then he could not go to the Paralympic trials in Adelaide earlier this year because of a border closure.
While Pearse was overcome with emotion at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on day seven, Australian team cult figure Grant “Scooter” Patterson was claiming the keys to the city. The short-statured Patterson, known as the unofficial mayor of Cairns, won silver in the SB2 50m breaststroke to go with last Saturday’s bronze.
“I think I will have a set of keys for when I get back – I will unlock some naughty doors,” Patterson said.
The Australian swim team had an otherwise lean night despite plenty of opportunities. They had 11 finalists, but Jasmine Greenwood’s silver in the S10 100m butterfly was the only other medal at the pool. Of their three finalists in the women’s S9 100m freestyle, Ellie Cole was the first home in fifth place.
Earlier on Tuesday, Jaryd Clifford won his second Paralympic track and field medal, adding a bronze in the men’s 1500m to his haul. The world record holder went into the T13 1500m as a gold medal favourite after being pipped in the 5000m.
But Russia’s Anton Kuliatin surged down the final stretch with 22-year-old Clifford unable to go with him. Tunisia’s Rouay Jebabli held Clifford at bay to win silver. Kuliatin’s time of 3 minutes 54.04 seconds was way off Clifford’s world best mark of 3.41.34, set in Canberra in March.
Fellow Australian Sam Harding finished 11th in the final. Alissa Jordan ran a personal best time of 12.80 in the 100m T47 heats but narrowly missed the final.
In boccia, Daniel Michel will play for Australia’s first medal since Atlanta after narrowly losing Tuesday’s semi-final. Australia continues to impress in table tennis, with the Classes 9-10 men’s team beating France 2-0 in their quarter-final. But the men’s Classes 6-7 team lost their quarter to Great Britain 2-0.
Todd Hodgetts was seventh on Tuesday night in the F20 shot put, while the Gliders ended the women’s wheelchair basketball tournament with their first win when they beat Algeria 71-32 in the play-off for ninth.