Day 7 recap: Afghan Paralympic beats odds to compete in Tokyo

After a dramatic evacuation of Kabul, held by the Taliban and a covert operation to take him to Tokyo, Afghan Paralympian Hossain Rasouli beat all odds on Tuesday to participate in the long jump.

It wasn’t the event he expected to compete in, having qualified for the T47 100m, but just about everything in his world was turned upside down with the capture of his homeland by the insurgents.

After the militant group invaded the capital, he and his fellow Afghan Paralympian Zakia Khudadadi found themselves trapped, with no way to get to Tokyo.

At first it seemed like their Paralympic dream was over. A Tokyo 2020 volunteer symbolically carried the Afghan flag during the Games’ opening ceremony, with no athlete on the field to participate.

Over the weekend, however, officials revealed that the Afghan couple had been successfully evacuated from the country by plane.

After a stopover in Dubai, they were whisked to Paris and spent a week at the French Sports Ministry’s high-level training center before flying to Tokyo, where they arrived on Saturday evening.

The couple are being kept away from the media, with the International Paralympic Committee saying athletes need space to focus on their sport.

But IPC spokesman Craig Spence said on Tuesday that Rasouli was “super excited to compete today.”

The Afghan emerged from the athlete’s entrance Tuesday with a wave of his hand to team officials scattered around the nearly empty Olympic stadium.

Rasouli, whose left hand was amputated following a mine explosion, then proudly pointed to the Afghan Paralympic Committee logo on his jacket.

The 26-year-old finished last, reflecting his relative inexperience in the discipline – it was his first time competing in the long jump in a major competition.

Still, said Spence, “it was great to see him” on what was “a very special occasion.”

Khudadadi wants to participate in taekwondo on Thursday.

British cyclist Sarah Storey celebrates after winning a gold medal in the women's C5 road time trial at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games on Tuesday.  |  REUTERS
British cyclist Sarah Storey celebrates after winning a gold medal in the women’s C5 road time trial at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games on Tuesday. | REUTERS

Elsewhere, there was joy for great British cyclist Sarah Storey, who won the C5 road time trial at Fuji International Speedway to tie swimmer Mike Kenny’s record 16 gold at the British Paralympic Games. .

“I have been preparing for this race for so long. The time trial is probably one of my favorite events, ”she said. “This is the ‘race for truth’. It’s you against the clock, and you try to take your competition as you see it. “

Storey, who was born without a functioning left arm, has broken 76 world records and shows no signs of slowing down.

The 43-year-old will then take part in Thursday’s road race, where she will have the chance to break Kenny’s record, although she said she was not making any assumptions.

“Road races are so unpredictable,” Storey said. “So Thursday morning I’m going to go out and try to have some fun and see which way the cookie crumbles.” “

There was also joy for Cuba’s “speed queen” Omara Durand Elias, who won her sixth Paralympic gold in the T12 400 meters.

The visually impaired 29-year-old who runs with a guide said there was no magic recipe for her dominance in athletics.

“My secret is the sacrifice for training and good coaching. That’s it, ”said the Cuban, who will compete in the 100-meter final tomorrow and also aims to compete in the 200-meter final on Saturday.

On a day with 61 gold medals up for grabs in five sports, there was a bitter disappointment for American “armless archer” Matt Stutzman, who is one of the world’s most recognizable Paralympians.

He missed out on a medal in the men’s compound open class on Tuesday when he fell in the last 16, with a performance well below his best.

“I felt like crap. That’s the polite way to put it, “he later admitted.” It was one of my worst scores I’ve shot in probably five years. “

But the 2015 world champion said he was down but not out.

“I’m going to be back in Paris (2024) and my ultimate goal is to represent the United States in LA (2028),” he said. “These will be my last Games.”

The home country had another tough day at the office on Tuesday, although it managed to add one more gold to its growing tally.

At 50, cyclist Keiko Sugiura became Japan’s oldest Paralympic gold medalist, winning the C1-3 women’s road time trial at Fuji Speedway.

A keen hobbyist before suffering a skull crush fracture in a 2016 bicycle accident, Sugiura quickly became a force in her favorite parasport, winning medals at the world championships shortly after her accident.

She won her first Paralympic gold medal with a 25-minute, 55.76-second explosion around the auto racing track at the foot of Mount Fuji. Her closest competitor, Sweden’s Anna Beck, finished the 16 kilometer race with 22.27 seconds less.

“I managed to run while staying focused,” said Sugiura. “My pace dropped (in the second half of the race) and I thought I might not make it (to the fastest line).”

Also in the morning, visually impaired runner Shinya Wada won his second medal of the Games, crossing the finish line in second place in the men’s T11 1,500-meter race.

“I left everything on the track,” he said, explaining that at 44 this could be his last Paralympic Games.

He crossed the finish line at the National Stadium in 4:05.27, far behind Brazilian Yeltsin Jacques, the runner who won the T11 5,000 meters ahead of bronze medalist Wada on Friday.

Wada has one more event to go, the men’s T12 marathon, in which he has a chance to win a full set of medals at the Tokyo Games.

Japan are assured of at least one silver medal in boccia after Hidetaka Sugimura won the individual BC2 class final where he will face Thailand’s Watcharaphon Vongsa.

Sugimura dominated his group after going undefeated in three games, then won their quarter-final 8-1 against Slovakian Robert Mezik on Tuesday morning. The cerebral palsy athlete then moved back later in the day to knock out Brazilian Maciel Santos 3-2 in the semi-finals.

Vongsa will be far from child’s play, as he enters the game looking to defend his title won in 2016 and aim for a fourth career Paralympic gold medal.

Japan has had a disappointing day in wheelchair tennis.

Quad singles player Koji Sugeno was knocked out of her semi-final by Sam Schroder of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-3, and Momoko Ohtani was also fired by a Dutch player in her WT class semi-final, losing 6-3, 6-2 to Dide de Groot.

In the men’s doubles semi-final, third-seeded pair Shingo Kunieda and Takashi Sanada were completely defeated by seeds Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid of England 6-2, 6-1.

The only bright spot of the day for Japan came from Yui Kamiji when she beat China’s Zhu Zhenzhen 7-5, 6-1 to reach the WT singles semi-final.

Kamiji will have to defeat Dutch Aniek van Koot to secure a place in the final.

“Before I got into today’s game, there was a part of me that thought I couldn’t lose before facing (van Koot). So I’m glad I was able to win, ”said Kamiji.

After losing the singles semi-finals in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and the quarter-finals in London in 2012, she says she is entering “uncharted territory”.

“Now that I’ve got this far, I want to be aggressive with a winning mindset. I want to do my best so I can play more,” she said.

Japan suffered losses to China in both goalball, 7-4 in the men’s quarterfinal, and five-a-side football, 2-0.

The soccer result means Japan are relegated to the fifth and sixth qualifiers, with China advancing to the semi-finals in their stead. The Tokyo Goalballers Games are over.

At the end of the evening, the Japanese women’s wheelchair basketball team had an embarrassing end to their Paralympic Games, losing 82-24 by the Netherlands in the quarter-final match between the teams. .

The Dutch built a 22-point lead at the end of the first quarter, extended it to 34 at halftime, 46 at the end of the third and did not give up, missing by 58 points.

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