Kenya’s Samwel Mushai Kimani clinched the first Para athletics gold medal of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic stadium on Thursday (8 September).
Brazilian hopes rested with local star and three-time Paralympic silver medallist Odair Santos, and when the 35-year-old took to the front of the leading pack with just over three laps remaining, the crowd roared their delight.
But in a final-lap sprint against Kimani it was the African who proved stronger, sprinting clear down the home straight to take the gold in a personal best 15:16.11.
“First, I won the gold for myself, second is for my country and third is for my family,” said the 26-year-old, who beat Santos to the 1,500m T11 Paralympic title in London four years ago.
“I was wanting to win the gold since I started my preparation for the 2016 Paralympic Games. It will not fire only Kenya, it will inspire the whole world.”
Santos (15:17.55) took the silver while bronze went to Kenya’s Wilson Bll (15:22.96).
Four gold medals were decided out in the field, and the biggest cheer of the morning went to Brazilian long jumper Ricardo Costa de Oliveira (6.52m), who won long jump T11 gold with his final leap of the competition.
The 34-year-old finished eight centimetres clear of the USA’s Lex Gillette, who had gone in to the lead in the fifth round with a leap of 6.44m.
But Oliveira kept his composure for his final attempt and leapt with joy when the final measurement was announced.
“I have been training a lot, in the gym from early in the morning to late at night. I have been staying up late at night discussing with my coach what I need to improve, and today I could enjoy the result of all this, because I have been suffering a lot,” said Oliveira.
Greek thrower Athanasios Konstantinidis broke the men’s shot put F32 world record twice on his way to winning gold. The 46-year-old threw 10.15m in the fifth round before improving to 10.39m with his final attempt. Algeria’s Lahouari Bahlaz (9.40m) won silver and Greek Dimitrios Zisidis (9.24m) won bronze.
Spain’s world bronze medallist Kim Lopez Gonzalez took Paralympic gold in the men’s shot put F12, his personal best of 16.44m in the second round enough to secure victory. Iran’s Saman Pakbak (15.98m), silver medallist at last year’s World Championships, had to settle for second once again, while world champion Roman Danyliuk (15.94m) of Ukraine took bronze.
“Last year it didn’t go so well for me, I only got third at the world championships but I thought that I could do better than that, so now I’m really happy with this gold medal,” said Lopez Gonzalez.
“I didn't expect to win a medal today, but I was ready for it. I was optimistic about it, and I knew I was strong but I didn't know how strong I could be.
“I’m lucky to be the first Spanish champion here in Rio (Paralympic Games), and I want to dedicate this gold to our country - Spain.”
There was a repeat of the podium finish at last year’s World Championships as Latvia’s Aigars Apinis (20.83m) won the discus F52. The 43-year-old, who won silver at London 2012, was joined on the podium by silver medallist Robert Jachimowicz (19.10m) of Poland and bronze medallist Sandor Velimir (18.24m) of Croatia.
Back on the track, China’s reigning Paralympic champion Lisha Huang broke her own world record in the heats of the women’s 100m T53.
The 27-year-old looked in terrific form as she quickly left her rivals behind to take the tape in 16.19, knocking 0.03 seconds off the mark she set at the Beijing Games in 2008. The final takes place later today.
Five Para athletes qualified automatically for Friday’s semi-final of the women’s 100m T11. Brazilian Lorena Spoladore (12.49) won the first heat, while there was a dead heat in the second race between Great Britain’s Libby Clegg and China’s Guohua Zhou, with both athletes awarded the same time (12.17). Clegg’s time set a new European record.
Reigning world champion Cuiqing Liu (12.03) of China dominated the third heat, crossing the line just 0.02 seconds shy of the world record set by Brazil’s defending champion Terezinha Guilhermina at London 2012. Liu’s time was a new Asian record.
Guilhermina progressed as one of the next four fastest, while Brazil’s Paralympic silver medallist Jerusa Santos took the final automatic spot in the fourth heat.
Cuba’s triple world champion Omara Durand – the fastest female Paralympian on the planet – kicked off her campaign for three gold medals at Rio2016 with a convincing win in the opening heat of the women’s 100m T12.
Durand, who also takes on the 200m and 400m T12 in Brazil, clocked a new Paralympic record of 11.58 while Brazil’s Alice de Oliveira Correa (12.31), Germany’s Katrin Mueller-Rottgardt (12.47) and Azerbaijan’s Elena Chebanu (12.24) also progressed automatically.
Morocco’s Mahdi Afri (49.32) was the fastest of the qualifiers to make it through to the semi-finals of the men’s 400m T12. The 20-year-old set a new personal best and will line up in Thursday’s (8 September) semi-finals alongside the likes of reigning world champion Luis Goncalves (49.60) of Portugal, the world silver and bronze medallists Qichao Sun (49.58) of China, and Hilton Langenhoven (50.26) of South Africa.
Tunisia’s Najah Chouaya (4:52.32) and Spain’s Izasjun Oses Ayucar both won their heats of the women’s 1,500m T13; the reigning world champion Somaya Bousaid of Tunisia also made it through to the final on Saturday.