SENSATIONAL SHOW: Tigist Gezahagn Menigstu of Ethiopia celebrates after winning gold in the women's 1500m T13 final at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Ⓒ Naomi Baker/Getty Images
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games were extraordinary in many ways.
Not just did the Games exceed the expectation of the World in terms of number of organisation amid COVID-19 pandemic and participation; it also witnessed records and umpteen number of firsts for several countries.
Here are some of the countries that achieved historic feats.
First ever Paralympic gold
Twenty-five years after Sri Lanka made its Paralympic debut, the country won its first ever gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Games when Dinesh Priyantha Herath clinched the top honours in the men's Javelin Throw F46 category. In doing so, Herath, a Rio 2016 bronze medallist, also set a new World and Paralympic record of 67.79 metres.
Likewise, Ethiopia, having made their Games debut five decades ago, got their first gold through 21-year-old Tigist Gezahagn Mengistu who triumphed in the women's 1500m T3.
Pakistan too got their first gold thanks to their only Paralympic medallist Haider Ali who finished atop in the men's Discus F37 with a Paralympic record throw of 55.26m. Ali was also instrumental in putting Pakistan on the map with his long jump silver and bronze in Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016, respectively.
Among other countries that also made it to the top of podium for the first time was Ecuador where sisters Poleth and Anais Mendez claimed gold and bronze in the women’s Shot Put F20, respectively.
The Tokyo 2020 didn’t just see the sport of Para Taekwondo and Para Badminton making its debut, there were also countries that debuted adding to the number of participating countries in Tokyo 2020 more than Rio 2016. Newest National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) in the Paralympic family - Maldives, Bhutan (Asia), Paraguay and St. Vincent & the Grenadines (Americas) - made their historic debut at these Games and gained some valuable experiences.
These nations might have fielded small contingents but surely the participation will lead to bigger result, acting as a driving force to the Paralympic Movement in their respective countries.
Historic first in a Sport
Australia ended its 37-year gold medal drought in Para Table Tennis when Lina Lei and Qian Yang won their respective women’s singles finals in Tokyo. First it was Lei who registered a thrilling 3-2 victory over World No. 1 Xiong Guiyan for the gold in the women’s singles class 9 final. Later, Yang pulled off a 3-1 win over Brazilian Bruna Costa Alexandre in the women's Class 10 category.
Lei’s gold was also the first individual women’s Para Table Tennis gold medal for Australia.
In Para Powerlifting, Jordan got its first gold medal when Omar Qarada lifted a powerful 173kg in the final attempt to win the gold ahead of World record holder and Rio 2016 Champion Le van Cong from Vietnam.
Brazil claimed its first Para Powerlifting gold credit to Mariana D'Andrea’s stunning performance in the women’s up to 73kg. Having missed out on medals at major championships including Rio 2016 and Mexico 2017 World Championships, the 23-year-old from Sao Paulo was determined to make it to the podium at Tokyo 2020.
She produced her best in the final round with a lift of 137kg to finish ahead of China’s Xu Lili (134kg), a two-time World and Paralympic silver medallist.
Meanwhile, India got its first ever female Paralympic gold medallist when 19-year-old Avani Lekhara bagged the gold in the R2 women's 10m Air Rifle SH1 event with a World record score of 249.6. This was also India’s first medal in shooting in the Paralympic Games. Lekhara finished ahead of Rio 2016 silver medallist Cuiping Zhang of China and Ukraine's Iryna Shchetnik. Lekhara also added a bronze to her tally with a score of 227.5 in the 50m Rifle 3 Position SH1.
Natascha Hiltrop took the first Paralympic shooting gold for Germany in 17 years, after triumphing in the R3 mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone SH1. It was also Hiltrop’s first Paralympic gold medal after her silver at Rio 2016.
The debut of Para Taekwondo also saw countries winning their first ever medals. Peru clinched its first Paralympic gold medal since Sydney 2000 Games thanks to Leonor Espinoza Carranza’s sharp skills and technique to beat Turkey’s Meryem Cavdar in the women’s K44 -49kg finals.
After a 29-year sabbatical, Yemen made their comeback to the Paralympic Games in Tokyo through two Shot Putters - Belqes Ahmed Hezam Taresh in women's F57 class and Naseb Fateh Mohammed Al Raoad in men’s F57 class.
While the two Para athletes couldn’t win any medals, they made it to the finals of both the events, giving hopes to the people with disabilities in the country.
Yemen last participated at the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona, with three athletes, which was also their debut Games.