“I vow to train even harder than I did and do the best that I can in the next four years, so that I can be selected to represent my country again and defend my titles in Tokyo in 2020.”
Ihar Boki lived up to expectations at Rio 2016 as the 22-year-old once again left as the most decorated Paralympian.
At his second Paralympics, the Belarusian swimmer wowed many with his speed and technique in the pool, winning seven medals (six golds and a bronze) and leaving his opponents in his ripples as he improved a number of his own world records.
While Boki was the most decorated Paralympian from Rio 2016, China left as the most-decorated nation for the fourth straight Games and a new swimming star in Huang Wenpan emerged from the waters. These medals hauls enter the International Paralympic Committee’s Top 50 Moments of 2016 at No. 7.
Boki officially claimed the most medals in Rio on the final night of swimming events, when he won the men’s 100m backstroke S13 in world-record fashion.
“There is a feeling of lightness because I did so much work to achieve this,” Boki said after his final gold medal. “I’m happy that I was able to have decent results in this competition, and that I was able to stay strong. All of these 10 days were very difficult and I had to swim a race almost every day.
“I wanted to go out and just show the results that I am capable of right now. I came out here and I showed that and apparently that was enough to get the gold medals.”
Of his six gold medals, Boki broke two world records (as well as the 100m butterfly S13) – both previous records he set back at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, Great Britain.
While he did not break world records in his other four events (200m individual medley, 400m freestyle, 50m freestyle and 100m freestyle), Boki still owns all those records.
Perhaps he aims to break them at the 2017 World Para Swimming Championships in Mexico City.
Boki made himself known when he left London 2012 with the most medals (five golds, one silver) at 18 years old and the spotlight was fixed on him heading into Rio 2016.
All five golds he successfully defended, and he added the 50m freestyle title at Rio to improve on his silver from London 2012.
The only event Boki seemed to still struggle with was the 100m breaststroke SB13, which he did not medal in London and took bronze at Rio.
The event proved to be a tight contest, as the gold medal was shared between Ukraine’s Oleksii Fedyna and Firdavsbek Musabekov.
While Boki took home the most medals, China’s Para athletes shined across various sports to leave with 239 medals (107 golds, 81 silvers and 51 bronze).
Among their most successful athletes was Huang, the third-most decorated Paralympian from Rio with six medals (five golds) – all which he now owns world records in. The 21-year-old won the 50m backstroke and freestyle S3; 50m breaststroke SB2; 200m freestyle S3; and 150m individual medley SM3 events.
“I like the title [of most decorated Chinese athlete at Rio 2016], and I like how it reflects all the hard work, but I won’t be proud of it,” he said.
Like Boki, Huang now has the spotlight fixed on him ahead of Tokyo 2020.
Perhaps at Tokyo 2020, Huang will be aiming to break his own world records, just like Boki.
“I vow to train even harder than I did [for Rio] and do the best that I can in the next four years, so that I can be selected to represent my country again and defend my titles in Tokyo in 2020,” Huang said.