Paralympic Games Day 1: Valeriia Shabalina Stuns With World Record; Patterson Claims Gold

Lakeisha Patterson. Photo Courtesy:Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

The 2020 Paralympic Games began in Tokyo and the women’s swimming races were highlighted by a world record on night one.

Russian Paralympic Committee’s Valeriia Shabalina claimed a world record to win the women’s 100 butterfly S14 class. She won gold in 1:03.59 to beat her own world record of 1:03.68 set in 2019.

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Australia’s Paige Leonhardt won the silver in 1:05.48, followed by teammate Ruby Storm (1:06.50).

Australia’s Lakeisha Patterson claimed gold in the 400 free S9 to kick off the women’s events. She won the race in 4:36.68. Hungary’s Zsofia Konkoly took the silver in 4:36.76, while Great Britain’s Toni Shaw won the bronze medal in 4:39.32.

In the women’s 100 backstroke S2, Singapore’s Pin Xiu Yip won the gold medal in stunning fashion, touching the wall in 2:16.61, 10 second ahead of the field. It was her second consecutive Paralympic gold medal in the event after earning gold in Rio in 2016. Japan’s Miyuki Yamada won the silver in 2:26.18, while Mexico’s Fabiola Ramirez claimed the bronze in 2:36.54.

In the 50 freestyle S5 class, Ukraine claimed gold and bronze as Yelyzaveta Mereshko won the gold in 33.11 and Anna Hontar claimed bronze in 33.40. The silver went to Elizabeth Marks of the United States, who finished in 33.15.

“It’s kind of a newer event for us and my coach has been very patient with me, so we’re still in the learning phase, but we swam our best race,” Marks said. “The people of Japan have been very welcoming and very kind. Everyone has been extremely gracious, and they really do try to make you feel at home, so it’s been very lovely. It’s gorgeous and a beautiful facility. The temperature is great for me. Everyone has different preferences. I prefer a little bit warmer water, so it’s nice that this is a nice neutral. I think everyone is happy.”

In the 50 free S10 class, Russian Paralympic Committee’s Anastasiia Gontar claimed gold in 27.38. The silver went to Chantalle Zijderveld of the Netherlands (27.42), while Canada’s world record holder Aurelie Rivard won the bronze in 28.11.

“I’m feeling really emotional. Not all negative, some positive too,” said the 25-year-old Rivard, who now has three gold medals, two silver and one bronze across three Paralympic Games appearances. “Just standing on the podium at the Games is something really special regardless of the position and the colour of the medal. This said, I didn’t have a bronze medal in my collection and I didn’t really want one. I didn’t have a good race but the girls deserve the gold and silver medals.

“Of course I wanted to win my title back, which is disappointing, but I’m going to deal with that later. I’m not a sprinter, it’s not my best event. That’s not what I’ve been training for all year long. I need to leave this one in the past and not let it affect my next races.”

The women’s 100 butterfly S13 class saw a 1-2 finish for Italy. Carlotta Gilli won the gold medal in 1:02.65, ahead of teammate Alessia Berra (1:05.67). Russian Paralympic Committee’s Daria Pikalova won the bronze medal in 1:05.68.

Day 1 of the meet closed with the 200 free S5 class. China’s Zhang Li won the gold medal in 2:46.53, edging Great Britain’s Tully Kearney (2:46.65), who won the silver. Italy’s Monica Boggioni won the bronze in 2:55.70.

“There was a question mark over whether I’d ever get to a Paralympic Games, so the fact that I’ve been able to race and come away with a medal is crazy,” Kearney said. “Any athlete’s going to be disappointed if they don’t win, but for me it was just about coming here. I’ve had to deal with injuries so I was nervous that my fitness wouldn’t be good enough to swim a 200m, and then to be on my PB is pretty impressive and I’ve got to be pleased with that.

“I thought after Rio that the Paralympics weren’t going to be possible, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to swim anymore so this is obviously an massive deal and it’s all down to the amazing sports staff, the whole team, in particular my physio Ritchie [Barber] and my coach [Graeme Smith] who got me to this point – so to be honest it’s down to them I just swam.”