Paralympic Games
7-18 September

Rio 2016: Top five surprises

From Malaysia claiming their first ever Paralympic golds to the all-British wheelchair tennis final, check out some of the biggest surprises at this year’s Paralympics. 27 Sep 2016
Gold medalist Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli of Malaysia celebrate on the podium

Gold medalist Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli of Malaysia celebrate on the podium

ⒸAlexandre Loureiro/Getty Images

Outstanding performances, 210 world records and awe-inspiring moments could be seen at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But which were the biggest surprises?

Here are just a few of them.

Japan claim Asia’s first wheelchair rugby Paralympic medal

After losing to USA in the bronze-medal match four years ago in London, Great Britain, Japan was determined to take a leap forward in Rio and claim Asia’s first wheelchair rugby Paralympic medal. And they did, following a hard-fought 52-50 win over Canada. Their victors in the semi-finals, Australia, went on to claim gold, whilst USA took silver. This performance will give extra-motivation to the Japanese team, who will be looking to impress on home soil in four years, at Tokyo 2020.

Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid set up all-British wheelchair tennis final

Reid was amongst the top contenders in the men’s wheelchair tennis event after winning this year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon titles. But few would have bet Hewett, who had just made his first appearance at a Grand Slam in 2016, would also reach the final with France’s Stephane Houdet and Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez also competing. Reid won gold after a 6-2, 6-1 win, which did not overshadow Hewett’s great performance. The two British players also joined forces to claim silver in the doubles.

Iran eliminate Argentina and go on to claim historical football 5-a-side silver

Everything was set for a South American clash in the football 5-a-side final, after powerhouses Brazil and Argentina advanced into the semi-finals as top-finishers of their respective groups. The former did their part defeating China 2-1 with two amazing goals scored by Jefinho to qualify for the gold-medal match. But, unexpectedly, Argentina lost to Iran on the penalties and could not make it through to their second Paralympic final in 12 years. The Asian champions could not dethrone Brazil but still celebrated their first medal in the sport.

Malaysia put an end to their gold medal drought…in triplicate!

10 September was a historical day for Malaysia because they claimed their first two Paralympic titles in quick succession. Since making their debut at Heidelberg 1972, Malaysia had only won two silvers and five bronzes. But Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi in the men’s 100m T36, first, and Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli in the men’s shot put F20, an hour later, put an end to their country’s gold medal drought. The following day, Abdul Latif Romly (7.60) broke the men’s long jump T20 world record to seal Malaysia’s third Paralympic title.

Spain climb onto the wheelchair basketball podium for the first time

Pablo and Alejandro Zarzuela, Agustin Alejos y Jesus Romero were part of the Spanish Under-22 national team that won the European Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2006. Ten years later, they made history again by winning silver at Rio 2016, their country’s first wheelchair basketball Paralympic medal ever. Spain defeated London 2012 gold medallists Canada, world champions Australia and European champions Great Britain on their way to the final, which they lost to USA to finish on a much-celebrated second place.