China’s teenage sensation Xia Zhou smashed the 200m T35 world record as she notched up her second gold of Rio 2016 on the final morning (Saturday 17 September) of competition at the Olympic stadium.
Zhou’s victory took China’s Para athletics gold medal tally up to 24, and she did it in style too, knocking 0.08 seconds of Australian Isis Holt’s mark as she sprinted home in 28.22 seconds.
Holt, the reigning world champion and – at 15-years-old – the youngest in the field, looked to be in contention as the pair raced round the bend, entering the home straight neck and neck.
But with 40m to go the Chinese sprinter, 17, pulled clear, leaving Holt unable to respond. The Australian took silver in 28.79 while Great Britain’s Maria Lyle, 16, completed a podium of young stars with a season’s best 29.35.
“I couldn't feel better. It was one of the best outcomes that I could have hoped for. I tried so hard in that race and to have a medal, no matter the colour, is incredible,” said Holt.
"It’s exciting. It really gives me someone to chase, a goal to work towards. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that. It’s amazing.”
French world champion Nantenin Keita (55.78) looked in terrific form as she won the women’s 400m T13 title with a new Paralympic record.
The 31-year-old started strongly and was well up on her rivals coming off the final bend - tiredness began to set in over the last 50m but Keita had already done enough to secure her first Paralympic title from three Games.
South Africa’s Ilse Hayes (56.49) finished quickly to take the silver medal ahead of 100m T13 champion Leila Adzhametova (56.60) of Ukraine.
“I’m very, very, very, very happy,” said Keita. “After the 100m, I was feeling very disappointed (she came in fifth). Now to get the gold medal, I am very happy. I can’t believe it. I’m proud of myself, proud of my coach.
“I was nervous because I was waiting for this moment and after I won the World Championships last year many people were expecting some great result from me here in Rio. It is not easy.”
Belgium’s double world champion Peter Genyn (1:20.82) also got off to a strong start in his event, the men’s 400m T51. Victory marked a second Paralympic title for the 39-year-old, who has already won the 100m T51 title at Rio 2016.
“It’s amazing, I achieved everything possible here. I couldn’t achieve anything higher. The Paralympics is the highest thing. I would’ve traded both my World Championship gold medals for a Paralympic gold, and now I’ve got two, so it’s a great feeling,” said Genyn, who competed in wheelchair rugby at London 2012, where his team finished seventh.
Genyn also set a new Games record as he was made to work hard for the win – Algeria’s Mohamed Berrahal threatened round the final bend before tailing off, then Mexico’s Edgar Navarro Sanchez (1:21.82) came through for silver and Italy’s Alvise de Vidi (1:22.38) took bronze.
Genyn has been inundated with congratulatory messages – including a phone call from King Philippe of Belgium.
“It's been amazing. I’ve got 260 e-mails, Facebook has exploded and I still see messages I haven’t seen yet. I get text messages from people I didn't even know had my phone number. I can’t really grasp it.
“My entire town has hung up about 100 flags everywhere. It’s crazy back home. Our King called me to congratulate me and say that the country is proud. I wasn’t really expecting that so it was nice. He was very polite.”
There was double gold too for Canada’s Michelle Stilwell (19.42) who added the 100m T52 title to the 400m T52 gold she won one week earlier.
“I came here to bring home two gold medals and to stand on the podium and I’ve accomplished my goals so I couldn't be happier today,” she said.
“It was the best race I could ask for. The weather conditions, and the preparations to be here today to put it all on the line. I'm looking forward to watching the replay to see what it really looked like.”
Stilwell powered home in a new Paralympic record as the USA’s Kerry Morgan (19.96) won silver and Belgium’s Marieke Vervoort (20.12) won bronze.
There was a second world record out on the track too as Great Britain’s T44 sprinter Sophie Kamlish clocked 12.93 seconds in the heats of the women’s 100m T44. Kamlish’s time took 0.03 seconds off the mark set by the USA’s former Paralympic and world champion April Holmes ten years ago.
There were two golds apiece for Germany and China out on the field too.
Heinrich Popow won the men’s long jump T42, leaping a new Paralympic record mark of 6.70m in the opening round.
The 33-year-old, who finished fourth at London 2012, had entered the competition as the man to beat after setting a new world record of 6.77m just last month.
He proved too good for his main rivals Atsushi Yamamoto of Japan, who won silver with an Asian record of 6.62m and Denmark’s Daniel Wagner, who jumped 6.57m for third.
Popow’s teammate Brigit Kober set a new Games record to take gold in the women’s shot put F36.
The 45-year-old had entered the competition in great form, having set a new world record earlier this year. She didn’t disappoint either, throwing 11.41m, just 11 centimetres shy of her best, in the final round.
Silver went to China’s Qing Wu (10.33m) and bronze was won by Australian Katherine Proudfoot (9.70m).
China’s Feixa Dong saw off multiple Paralympic champion Marianne Buggenhagen (24.56m) of Germany to win the women’s discus F55.
The 27-year-old threw a season’s best 25.03m in the second round to get the better of 63-year-old Buggenhagen, who is competing at her seventh Games. The German had to settle for silver this time as Latvia’s Diana Dadzite (22.66m) clinched bronze.
Dong’s teammate Guoshan Wu improved on his fifth place finish four years ago to win gold in the men’s shot put F57.
The 33-year-old, who finished third at last year’s World Championships, finished 16 centimetres ahead of Poland’s reigning world champion Janusz Rokicki (14.26m), who had to make do with second place this time. Bronze went to Iranian Javid Ehsani Shakib (14.13m).