A tie-break thriller meant triumph for Paralympic debutant Adam Peska and yet another heartbreak for Gregorios Polychronidis, the perpetual silver medallist, as individual boccia champions were crowned on Day 8 (1 September) of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
It was the day of the Dutch at the Fuji Speedway International, where six cycling road race gold medals were awarded.
Over at Tokyo Aquatics Centre, Ihar Boki’s winning streak was snapped, while Cyprus’ swimming legend snapped a 13-year drought of her own.
Badminton finally made its Paralympic debut with 22 matches while wheelchair basketball and goalball semi-final matches were decided.
Here are the main highlights:
TRIUMPH AND HEARTBREAK
Polychronidis waited 17 years for this moment – an individual Paralympic gold medal. The Greek athlete was the favourite to win the BC3 event, especially after securing his first major individual title at the 2018 World Championships.
Unfortunately it was not to be as he lost to the Czech Republic’s Peska in a tie-break. After a three pointer from Peska in the first end, Polychronidis had to fight hard to secure points in each subsequent end to force the tie-break finish.
Peska was one of four gold medallists. Japan’s Hidetaka Sugimura also beat favourite and defending champion Watcharaphon Vongsa of Thailand in the BC2 category.
Slovakia’s Samuel Andrejcik upgraded his silver from five years ago with his win over Thailand’s Pornchok Larpyen, while Great Britain’s David Smith was the only one to retain his title from Rio 2016 in the BC1.
Mitch Valize took the men’s road race H5 title in a sprint finish, Jennette Jansen did her attack a bit earlier to take the women’s H1-4 title, while Jetze Plat was uncontested in the men’s H4 to bring golden hardware back home to Netherlands.
The USA’s Oksana Masters proved her time trial win was no fluke by also finishing first in the road race H5 for her 10th overall Paralympic title.
After five golds, two world and two Paralympic records, it seemed inevitable that swimmer Ihar Boki would cruise to victory again. But the Belarusian’s attempt at another six-gold Games, a feat he achieved at Rio 2016 having won five titles four years earlier in London, was thwarted when German teenager Taliso Engel touched home first in the men’s 100m breaststroke SB13.
Boki, who just days earlier admitted this was his least-favoured event, missed out on the podium for the first time in Tokyo and had to settle for fifth.
The small country of Cyprus celebrated Karolina Pelendritou’s gold in the 100m breaststroke SB11 and setting a world record, 13 years after she won her last Paralympic title at Beijing 2008. She also took gold in Athens 2004 but only came fourth in Rio 2016.
Canada’s Aurelie Rivard rocketed to an amazing world record performance and successfully defended her title in the women’s 400m freestyle S10, shaving five seconds off her own world record. It was the 25-year-old’s ninth career Paralympic medal over three Games and her fifth gold.
Meanwhile Para swimming said goodbye to a legend in Daniel Dias, Brazil’s most decorated Para swimmer. He finished fourth in the men’s 50m freestyle S5, closing his career with a staggering 27 Paralympic medals, including 14 golds. His haul also includes the three bronze medals he notched up in Tokyo.
NO WORLD RECORD BUT STILL GOLD
Germany’s Markus Rehm burnished his status as one of the world’s premier Para athletes with a third successive long jump gold.
The world record holder soared to a handsome victory in the men’s T64 final, his best jump of 8.18 metres nearly 0.8m clear of his nearest rival at the Olympic Stadium.
Earlier, wheelchair racing titan Leo Pekka Tahti saw his 17-year reign as men’s 100m T54 champion ended by teenager Athiwat Paeng-Nuea of Thailand in a congested final.
There was further success for Thailand in the men’s 100m T53, as Pongsakorn Paeyo stormed to his second gold of the Games having already won the 400m T53 title.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED
Germany’s Natascha Hiltrop finally topped a shooting podium for the first time in 17 years, taking the R3 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1). China’s Chen Minyi beat Sarka Musilova in the W1 women’s final to win her second gold medal and China’s fourth in the archery competition.
And the wheelchair basketball semi-finals are set: Spain and the USA, and Japan and Great Britain will face off in the men’s, while Germany and the Netherlands, and China and USA will challenge for spots in the women's finals.
In goalball, Turkey and Japan, and Brazil and the USA, meet in the last four of the women. In the men's competition, China and the USA, and Lithuania and Brazil face each other.