After a Paralympic Games that has been packed with outstanding individual displays, teamwork is beginning to come to the fore in the final days of competition.
Friday (16 September) saw gold medals awarded in sports including goalball, football 7-a-side, wheelchair basketball as the team competitions begin to reach their climax.
But there were still plenty of outstanding individual success stories too, with Brazilian swimmer Daniel Dias delighting the home crowd with a third gold of the Games, and highly-decorated Great Britain star Hannah Cockroft enjoying a memorable day at the Olympic Stadium.
On finals day in the goalball, Turkey upset a formidable Chinese side to win the women’s gold in their first appearance at a Paralympic Games. And Lithuania’s men dominated their way to the top of the podium to win gold over the USA in a convincing 14-8 win. Brazil featured in both the bronze medal matches with the men treating their home crowd to a spirited win over Sweden, but the USA proved too strong for the women.
The first gold medal in the wheelchair basketball competition was awarded to the USA, whose women’s team beat Germany. The 62-45 victory at the Rio Olympic Arena was the USA’s first Paralympic gold medal since Beijing 2008 – when they also defeated Germany. The Netherlands beat Great Britain to take bronze.
Ukraine claimed gold in the football 7-a-side tournament with a 2-1 victory over Iran in the final. Artem Krasylnykov played the role of the hero as he scored in extra-time to give Ukraine victory following a match they had largely dominated. They become the most decorated football 7-a-side team at Paralympic Games, with three golds and two silvers. Hosts Brazil secured bronze with victory over the Netherlands.
There were four team golds up for grabs in table tennis, half of which were claimed by China. The pair of Juan Xue and Qian Li had too much for their Croatian rivals Helena Dretar-Karic and Andela Muzinic in the women’s team class 1-3 gold medal match, beating them by two matches to nil. The second Chinese victory came courtesy of a two matches to one win in the men’s team class 3 gold medal match where Panfeng Feng, Ping Zhao and Xiang Zhai beat their German opponents Thomas Schmidberger and Thomas Bruchle. There were also victories for Korea in the men’s class 4-5 gold medal match versus Chinese Taipei and for Ukraine over Sweden in the men’s class 6-8 final.
It was another golden day for China’s wheelchair fencers as they topped the podium in both the men’s and women’s team foil events in Carioca Arena 3. The wins take China’s fencing medal tally for Rio 2016 up to 17, nine of them gold. Their closest rivals were Ukraine with four medals.
Gordon Reid won gold in the wheelchair tennis men’s singles title, beating his doubles partner Alfie Hewett in an all-British final. In the women’s doubles final it was an all-Dutch affair, with Aniek van Koot and Jiske Griffioen triumphing 6-4, 6-2 over their Netherlands compatriots Diede de Groot and Marjolein Buis.
Gold medals were handed out in the mixed individual category of the boccia competition, where Great Britain’s David Smith comfortably defeated Daniel Perez of the Netherlands 5-0 in the BC1 gold medal match. In the BC2 category, gold was claimed by Watcharaphon Vongsa who beat Worawut Saengampa in a tight battle between the two Thais, with the match ending 5-4. The BC3 final saw Ho Won Jeong of Korea beat Greece’s Grigorious Polychrondis 8-1; and gold in the BC4 category went to Hong Kong’s Yuk Wing Leung, who defeated Samuel Andrejcik of Slovakia 4-3.
Italy continued their success in the cycling road competition claiming the mixed team relay H2-5 gold ahead of the USA and Belgium. In the other action at Pontal, there were cycling gold medals for Germany’s Steffan Warias in the men’s road race C1-2-3 and for Jamie Whitmore of the USA in the women’s road race C1-2-3. Hans-Peter Durst made it a double gold for Germany with victory in the men’s road race T1-2 and Australia’s Carol Cooke took the honours in the women’s race.
At the Aquatics Centre, multiple Paralympic champions Daniel Dias and Teresa Perales proved they are still the ones to beat, with Dias holding onto his backstroke title and Perales winning her first women’s 50m S5 backstroke gold.
The Brazilian crowd again lifted the roof to cheer home Dias to his third gold of the games as he eased to victory in the men’s 50m backstroke S5. Perales, meanwhile, clinched her first gold in the women’s backstroke S5 to add to her one silver and two bronze medals from previous editions. It was Perales’ seventh Paralympic title in a career that began at Sydney 2000.
There were first golds of the Games for the Czech Republic, courtesy of Arnost Petracek in the men’s 50m backstroke S4, and for Hungary, thanks to Tamas Toth in the men’s 100m backstroke S9.
At the Olympic Stadium, Great Britain’s reigning world champion and world-record holder Hannah Cockroft secured her third gold medal of the Games with a convincing victory in the 800m T34. China’s Cuiqing Liu (56.71) rounded off her Rio 2016 campaign with a win in the women’s 400m T11. And Algeria’s seven-time Paralympic medallist Samir Nouioua put in a sensational last lap as he sprinted to gold in the men’s 1,500m T46.
Meanwhile, 40-year-old David Blair of the USA proved that age is no barrier to Paralympic success as he extended the world record he set earlier this year with a winning throw of 64.11m in the men’s discus F44. Trinidad and Tobago’s Akeem Stewart (61.72m) set a new F43 Paralympic record as he added discus silver to the javelin F44 he won earlier at Rio 2016. The USA’s Roderick Townsend-Roberts took gold in the men’s high jump T47 although he wasn’t quite able to break his own world record in doing so. Germany’s world champion Sebastian Dietz added the shot put F36 Paralympic title to his collection and gold in the women’s shot put F33 went to Algeria’s Asmahan Boudjadar.
The wheelchair rugby semi-final line-up was confirmed on a dramatic day of action at Carioca Arena 1, where two games required overtime to settle them. Eventually the sport’s four highest-ranked nations ended up occupying the top two places in the two pools, so USA will face Canada and Japan will play Australia in the semi-finals.
Three London 2012 freestyle titles were successfully defended in the Para dressage competition. Belgium’s Michèle George retained hers in the grade IV competition on her last championship ride on FBW Rainman. Great Britain’s Sophie Christiansen became her country’s first triple gold medallist of the Games when she won the grade Ia freestyle. And the Netherlands’ Sanne Voets produced a brilliant ride to win the grade III title on Demantur.
There is still a day of sailing competition to go at Rio 2016, but the gold medal winners have already been confirmed in the two person (SKUD18) and three person keelboat (Sonar) categories, with Australian boats taking the honours in both.