TOKYO (AFP) – China’s youngest Paralympian broke her own world record in the pool in Tokyo on Monday (Aug 30), a day after Norwegian former refugee Salum Ageze Kashafali ran the fastest Paralympic Games 100 metres in history.
Dubbed the “Flying Fish”, 16-year-old Jiang Yuyan set an S6 50m butterfly world record of 34.56sec in Monday morning’s heats, knocking 0.30sec off the mark she set in winning the 2019 World Championships in London as a 14-year-old.
Jiang, who lost her right arm and right leg after being hit by a truck when she was three, only took up swimming aged eight and will compete for her maiden Paralympics gold in the final later on Monday.
Elsewhere on day six of competition, British sprint star Jonnie Peacock will go for a third consecutive Paralympic 100m gold when he runs in the T64 final.
But he will have his work cut out to beat Germany’s Felix Streng, who looked in ominous form in qualifying fastest from Sunday’s heats.
Records have been falling on a daily basis at the Tokyo Games, and Norway’s Kashafali on Sunday became the fastest 100m runner in Paralympic history when he crossed the line in 10.46sec in the T12 final.
“I don’t know what to say,” the 27-year-old said after the race, dissolving into tears.
“I came from nothing. I came from begging on the streets.”
The Norwegian, who has a visual impairment, fled the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with his family as a child and took up athletics as a teenager in his new home.
“I have been through so much, from bullets to hunger, and to be here as one of the best means a lot to me,” Kashafali said.
‘Forget the horror’
He is not the only survivor of war at the Games, which feature a refugee team and two Afghan athletes who escaped from Kabul after the country’s fall to the Taleban this month.
Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli arrived in Tokyo over the weekend after a complex international effort that saw them evacuated to France where they rested and trained before flying to Japan.
International Paralympic Committee chief Andrew Parsons said on Monday that receiving the pair in Tokyo was “a moment I will remember for the rest of my life” He added: “It was just incredible to feel that we had contributed in some way.”
Khudadadi will compete in the women’s -49kg K44 taekwondo on Thursday. Sprinter Rasouli will take part in the men’s T47 long jump on Tuesday, having arrived too late for his favoured T47 100m.
Parsons said he hoped the pair would be able to “really focus on sport and forget for a few days at least what they left behind and the horror that they have been through in their home nation.”
Elsewhere on Monday, play was delayed on all outdoor tennis courts till at least 5pm local time as Tokyo sweated through more summer heat.
And the women’s 4x100m-34 points winners Italy were awarded their medals, a day after their race, after a protest lodged by the United States team over their disqualification.
The team thought they had come away with the silver, but the second spot was instead handed to Australia after judges disqualified the US over an illegal changeover. Their protest was turned down by a referee and an appeal to a jury was also rejected. Canada were upgraded to bronze.
Britain’s wheelchair rugby team were meanwhile nursing hangovers on Monday, a day after a shock gold medal, the first time a European team has triumphed in the sport once known as “murderball”. They upset the odds by beating favourites the US 54-49 in the final.
Japan took bronze after defeating 2016 Rio champions Australia in the third-place match.
“Not in my wildest dreams did I think we’d be coming away with a Paralympic gold medal,” admitted Britain’s Stuart Robinson.
“For the past four or five years we’ve been building towards something special,” he added. “We’ve applied everything that we’ve learnt and put it into practice at these Games.”
Jim Roberts, who scored 24 tries in the final to lead his side to victory, was asked how he would celebrate.
“I just hope someone’s got some beer somewhere,” he told the UK’s Channel 4 television.
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