Swiss wheelchair racers produce magic in rainy Tokyo on day seven

Paralympic legend Omara Durand wins second gold and Greece's Athanasios Ghavelas takes his first title setting a new world record in the men's 100m T11 02 Sep 2021
A woman sitting in a wheelchair wrapped around with the Swiss flag
Switzerland's Manuela Schaer won her first Paralympic gold in the women's 400m T54 defeating the USA's Cheri Madsen
ⒸBuda Mendes/Getty Images
By OIS and World Para Athletics

The heavy rain in Tokyo did not stop Switzerland from harvesting gold medals in three wheelchair races on Para athletics day seven evening action at the National Olympic Stadium on Thursday (2 September).

Manuela Schaer celebrated her second victory of the Games with a virtuoso performance in the women’s 400m T54 at Tokyo 2020, clocking 53.59 ahead of silver medallist Cheri Madsen of the USA in 53.91, and 23-year-old Chinese revelation Zhou Zhaoqian, who put down a personal best of 54.10 for bronze.

"I was actually looking forward to the 400m because I knew that this was the distance that I was able to improve the most this year. I set a personal best twice this year, and I really wanted to see what I can do within a really strong field," said Schaer.

"I was a bit disappointed when I realised it would be wet conditions because that's not my best. It's always a little bit slower when it's wet, but I made the best of it."

Tatyana McFadden finished fourth in the final, falling agonisingly short of a 20th Paralympic medal.

It looked like McFadden was destined for the podium in the pouring rain until Zhou overtook her into third place just metres from the finish line.

It was a special race for Madsen who took podium finishes in both her events at Tokyo 2020, 25 years after her first Paralympic medal at Atlanta 1996.

More glory for Switzerland

Twenty-six-year-old Catherine Debrunner won her first-ever Paralympic gold in the women's 400m T53 with a 56.18-mark. She already had a bronze in Tokyo in the women's 800m T53.

“I changed a lot of things. I moved close to our training camp in Nottwil. I changed coach and I trained really hard. I chose not to stop believing in dreams,” said the reigning world and European champion Debrunner.

Her compatriot Marcel Hug defended his 800m T54 title won five years ago in Rio de Janeiro. The reigning European champion clocked a time of 1:33.68.

“We have great support in Switzerland, especially the wheelchair sport athletes. We have great support in Nottwil [where he lives in Switzerland]. We have a long history in wheelchair racing as well,” said Hug of the recent Swiss success.

The Silver Bullet clinched his third Paralympic gold in Tokyo after triumphing in the men's 1500m and 5000m T54 finals. His last appearance comes on Sunday in the men's marathon T54.

Sensational Ghavelas breaks the world record twice

Athanasios Ghavelas also had a night to remember. The Greek vision-impaired sprinter set two world records in less than 24 hours, first in the heats and later in the finals winning the 100m T11 in 10.82 ahead of France's Timothee Adolphe.

“This category is about visual problems and when something like this happens, we have the energy and strength to continue. I wish for all the people who have any problem to continue to do everything they like or love, just as we are doing,” said Ghavelas who in June had also set a world record at the European Championships in Bydgoszcz.

Australia's Vanessa Low broke another world record (5.28m) in the women's long jump T63 to defend her Paralympic title from Rio 2016 - when she represented Germany.

She defeated Italy's European champion and former world record holder Martina Caironi and Switzerland's Elena Kratter who finished second and third, respectively.

Jeremy Campbell won the only USA's title in the session. The reigning world champion triumphed in the men's discus F64 with a 60.22m-mark set in the first attempt.

Durand sprinted to seventh gold

Paralympic legend Omara Durand from Cuba won her second title in Tokyo in the women's 100m T12 (11.49). It was her seventh overall gold in the Paralympic Games.

“I’m very happy but the rain was a nuisance. I’m used to running in rain but it’s no excuse to have a good or bad result," said Durand who is aiming to win another gold in the women's 200m T12 on Saturday (4 September).

Asmahane Boudjadar from Algeria and Pongsakorn Paeyo from Thailand successfully defended their Paralympic titles in the women's shot put F33 and men's 800m T53.

Boudjadar set a new Paralympic record (7.10m), while Paeyo also notched up a Paralympic record (1:36.07) in front of Canada's Brent Lakatos and France's Pierre Fairbank.

China tops the medal table

Khusniddin Norbekov from Uzbekistan won his first Paralympic title in the men's shot put F35 with a season-best (16.13m).

"I am happy that my Paralympic story continues. I want to become a Paralympic champion again," said the world record holder.

Great Britain's Daniel Pembroke triumphed in the men's javelin F13 with a new Paralympic record (69.52). He added the Paralympic title to the gold medal won at this year's European Championships.

China top the Para athletics medal count with 21 golds going into day eight with 17 finals on schedule.

For complete Para athletics schedule and results at Tokyo 2020 click here.