McFadden wins 18th Paralympic medal

US wheelchair legend takes bronze in women's T54 5,000m in Tokyo to extend her streak of finishing on the podium


AFP August 28, 2021

TOKYO:

US wheelchair racing legend Tatyana McFadden won her 18th Paralympic medal on Saturday, while elsewhere at the Tokyo Games charismatic Italian fencer Beatrice "Bebe" Vio attempted to defend her title.

On Day 4 of the competition, a total of 54 gold medals were up for grabs across nine different sports, including 17 athletics finals at the Olympic Stadium.

McFadden took bronze in the women's T54 5,000m to extend her streak of finishing on the podium in every Paralympic race she has entered since 2008.

But she said just competing in Tokyo was a victory in itself, having been diagnosed with a blood-clotting disorder in 2017 that took almost two years to recover from.

"I'm on cloud nine," said the 32-year-old, who was born in Russia and raised in an orphanage until she was adopted at the age of six.

"I was in a really dark spot because it took me 20 months to recover, and everyone was getting better in those 20 months."

McFadden added that it was "quite amazing" that she took the bronze behind US team-mate Susannah Scaroni, who won gold.

Fleur Jong of the Netherlands won the women's T64 long jump, beating French defending champion Marie-Amelie Le Fur with a jump of 6.16m.

Le Fur, a three-time Paralympic gold medallist, said she would retire after the competition.

"The time has come to finish it here in Tokyo," said the 32-year-old.

"I'm proud to do so with this performance and with these extraordinary girls. There are no regrets."

Away from the track, Italian force of nature Vio, one of the world's most recognisable Paralympians, began the defence of her wheelchair fencing individual foil title from the 2016 Rio Games.

Vio, who had both forearms and legs amputated when she contracted meningitis as an 11-year-old, won all her morning pool bouts and her quarter-final to secure her place in the semis.

Spain's Susana Rodriguez, who helped fight the coronavirus in her job as a doctor, won gold in the women's PTVI triathlon.

Rodriguez, who fitted hours training for the Paralympics in between helping patients recover from the most severe infections, will also compete in the 1,500m at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday.

"I will try to relax now and try to recover my legs," she said.

"I need to keep calm because this situation gave me a lot of adrenaline."

Britain's Kadeena Cox will also turn her attention to athletics after winning her second cycling gold in team sprint. She will try to defend her T38 400m title next week.

Also at the velodrome, husband and wife Neil and Lorie Fachie of Britain won gold within 15 minutes of each other.

The boccia competition got underway with all four individual gold medallists from the Rio Games returning to defend their titles.

Hong Kong's BC4 champion Leung Yuk-wing will try to repeat his Athens 2004 feat of winning gold in individual and pairs events.

"I am trying to be relaxed to face the game, because just thinking about being the champion or the gold medal would be a lot of pressure," he said.

In wheelchair rugby, Britain booked their place in the final with a 55-49 win over hosts Japan.

They will play either USA or twice-defending champions Australia in the gold-medal match.

Away from the competition, organisers apologised after a visually impaired Japanese judoka was hit by a self-driving bus in the Paralympic village on Thursday.

Tokyo 2020 suspended operation of the vehicles after the accident, where one of the buses "made contact" with Aramitsu Kitazono.

Kitazono was scheduled to compete in the men's -81kg competition on Saturday morning, but did not start his match against Ukraine's Dmytro Solovey.

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