The host nation produced brilliant performances on the last day of competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. From battling the defending Paralympic champions USA in the wheelchair basketball in a thrilling gold medal final, to going for golds in badminton and marathon, Japan showed plenty of spirit on Sunday (5 September).
Here are the highlights from the closing day:
ALL ON THE COURT
Japan flew under the radar in the men’s wheelchair basketball competition to find themselves – on the very last competition of the Games – five minutes away from a historic gold medal.
But in those five minutes, the defending champions USA, led by veteran Steve Serio, fought back to retain their gold medal to win 64-60. A triumphant celebration and traditional cutting of the net for the USA while Japan’s athletes shed tears of sadness that later would become smiles.
With the silver medal, Japan produced the highest Paralympic finish ever - both men and women’s – and became the first Asian nation to reach a gold-medal game in men’s wheelchair basketball.
Japan’s 19-year-old Daiki Kajiwara produced one of the biggest upsets in badminton when he defeated South Korea’s Jun Jung Kim to win the men’s singles WH2 title. Kim was the heavy favourite, having won the last four World Championship titles in the lead up to Tokyo 2020.
From being a baseball player as a youngster before his accident, when he was knocked off his bike by a truck, Kajiwara had entered the international scene at the 2019 Worlds, finishing ninth in the singles and had stunned his way throughout the tournament.
Japan’s Sarina Satomi and Yuma Yamazaki also brought a doubles gold for their home nation by defeating China’s Liu Yutong and Yin Menglu 2-1 after losing the first set.
Japan locked in three medals in the marathon event, led by Misato Michishita’s gold in the women’s T12 event, improving on her silver from Rio 2016. Tadashi Horikoshi (T12) and Tsutomu Nagata (T46) claimed bronze in their respective events.
The streets of Tokyo also saw Switzerland’s Marcel Hug prove he is the man with the golden arms after a marathon masterclass. The Silver Bullet shot to his fourth gold in Tokyo to complete the clean sweep of T54 titles and finish as the most successful track and field athlete of these Paralympics - in a wheelchair he helped design.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED
Veronika Vadovicova had to wait until the last day of the Paralympic Games to pick up her gold medal, bringing to a close a thrilling set of contests at the Asaka Shooting Range. The R6 (mixed 50m rifle prone SH1) final was another close affair, with Vadovicova emerging triumphant 0.4 points ahead of silver medallist Anna Normann from Sweden in the last round.
In sitting volleyball, the US women smashed through their final match with China, claiming back-to-back gold medals with a resounding 3-1 victory.