Algeria clinches first golds in morning with marriage proposal on track

Cape Verde's Pereira Semedo to wed guide after saying 'I do' at the National Olympic Stadium while Wen takes hat-trick of golds for China 02 Sep 2021
Three men on an athletics track with their flags
Algeria's Skander Athmani (centre) celebrates his gold in the men’s 400m T13 with Morocco's Mohamed Amguoun and Namibia's Johannes Nambala
ⒸOIS/Joel Marklund
By OIS and World Para Athletics

A very special morning session at the National Olympic Stadium on Thursday (2 September) saw Algeria claiming its first Para athletics gold medals and marriage proposal on track. 

Cape Verde’s sprinter Keula Pereira Semedo and her guide Manuel Vaz da Veiga provided a heart-warming moment at Tokyo 2020 when she agreed to marry him at the finish line.

Vaz da Veiga popped the question to his girlfriend and racing partner on the track after she failed to qualify from the heats of the women’s 200m T11 on Thursday. Fortunately, for him, she said yes.

For the happy couple, the Tokyo 2020 motto ‘United by Emotion’ could hardly be more apt.

"With the proposal there's just too many emotions going on right now,” Semedo said. “I don't have words to explain how I feel. 

“I am sure our parents will go crazy. They will like it. These were my first Paralympic Games and with my age and speed I was actually thinking about stopping afterwards.

"But now I have an additional motivation to carry on after the Games, always with him by my side." 

Vaz da Veiga, who gathered together all the other athletes in Semedo's heat before getting down on one knee, had been planning the big moment since she was selected for the Cape Verde squad in July.

“I thought this was the best occasion and the best place to do it,” he said. “This [an athletics stadium] is her second home. She has been competing since 2005.

"We have been together in a relationship for 11 years, so I thought it was about time to come up with a proposal. So why not do it?"

Two golds and world records for Algeria 

There was no ring but two gold medals for Algeria. Skander Athmani put the African country on top of the Para athletics podium for the first time in Tokyo after winning the men’s 400m T13 with a world record (46.70). 

Then Safia Djelal made it double with a gold and a world record in the women’s shot put F57 (11.29m). 

“I am very happy, I can’t describe how happy I am, especially after setting a world and a Paralympic record. I can’t measure my happiness,” Djelal said.

“The competition was very tough and the competitors were all very strong. But I am thankful that I was very focused during the event. I had only one goal: to break the world record.”

Xiaoyan Wen powered to her hat-trick of golds to swell China’s gold medal haul in Para athletics to 21. This time she triumphed in the women’s 100m T37 setting a new world record (13.00). 

“I am really happy and very excited. I’ve finally accomplished one of my goals of my life,” Wen said.
Ukraine also bagged two golds in the morning through Mariia Pomazan far ahead of her rivals in the women’s shot put F35 (and Vladyslav Zahrebelny in the men’s long jump T37 (6.59m)

The 23-year-old clocked a world record 13.00 seconds in the women’s 100m T37 to add to her victories in the 200m and long jump.

Brazil took its eight Para athletics medal with Alessandro Rodrigo da Silva defending his Paralympic title in the men’s discus F11 (43.16m).

Abdelslam Hili broke the world record in the men’s 400m T12 (47.59) to give Morocco its first Para athletics gold in the Games. 

Complete Para athletics schedule and results from Tokyo 2020 here.