It was Ukraine day in the Tokyo Aquatics Centre with five of the 14 gold medals on offer on Saturday (28 August), the fourth day of Para swimming at Tokyo 2020.
There was also a first gold in Japan for Para swimming icon Jessica Long from USA, a double world record for Canada’s Aurelie Rivard and another podium sweep for China.
Ukraine’s team of world champion swimmers shone with teenager Mykhailo Serbin taking his first Paralympic medal in his victory in the men's 100 backstroke S11.
The 17-year-old swam beside teammate and five-time Paralympian Viktor Smyrnov, who took silver, his fourth Paralympic medal in this event.
"Viktor taught me: don't lose your speed in the distance, and never give up in the finish," said Serbin.
The Ukrainian also topped the podium with Yelyzaveta Mereshko in the women’s 100m breaststroke SB5, Denys Dubrov in the men’s 200m individual medley SM8, Yevhenii Bohodaiko in the men’s 100m breaststroke SB6; and Maksym Krypak who set a new world record in the men’s 100m freestyle S10 (50.64).
"I feel that I haven't realised yet that I have got this medal and maybe won't realise until one month later," Mereshko said after her third podium in Tokyo.
Cai Liwen hit rock bottom three years ago, when a debilitating waist injury left her in pain, often numb, and completely robbed of self-belief.
Her perseverance was rewarded with a gold medal and a world record on Saturday as she won the women’s 100m backstroke S11 (1:13.46), the second Chinese sweep of the podium in as many days.
Teammates Xinyi Wang and Guizhi Li took silver and bronze respectively.
“The pain I endured through injury to persevere to today has not been for nothing,” an emotional Cai said. “I feel like I’ve been accountable myself, having persevered. I learned never to give up on myself.”
The other Chinese gold came in the women’s 150m medley SM4 with Yu Liu, who had broken the world record in the heat earlier in the morning (2:39.39).
Saturday also saw Long’s first gold at Tokyo 2020, finishing more than six seconds ahead of her competitors in the women’s 200m individual medley SM8.
"I'm over the moon. So happy, that's what I've been dreaming of, that's what I really wanted going into these Games was to have a four-peat in the 200 IM. Just really proud of myself," Long said.
Records for Rivard and RPC
Canada’s Rivard set new world records in the women’s 100m freestyle S10 in the heat and the final (58.14).
“Today is even more special than it should be. It is probably one of the greatest swims of my life, technically, and winning the gold,” said the Canadian.
RPC swimmers took two gold with world records in the Roman Zhdanov (men’s 150m individual medley SM4) and Andrei Granichka (men’s 100m breaststroke SB5).
Jesus Hernandez Hernandez took Mexico’s first gold in the pool at Tokyo 2020 in the men’s 150m individual medley SM3.
Maisie Summers-Newton from Great Britain continued her dream debut, with a second gold in as many events. She set a new Paralympic record en route to winning the women’s 100m breaststroke SB6.
The British team also bagged another gold in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay S14.
Day five at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre will host 13 finals. Complete schedule and results are available on Paralympic.org.