Afghan Paralympians in tears as triathlon thriller lights up Super Sunday
Tokyo: Afghanistan’s athletes were in tears when they finally arrived at the Tokyo Paralympics, officials said, as Super Sunday — with 63 golds up for grabs — began in thrilling fashion in the triathlon. Afghanistan’s Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli were evacuated to France last weekend from the Taliban-controlled country in a “major global operation”, the International Paralympic Committee said. “The meeting at the athletes’ village was extremely emotional. There were lots of tears from everyone in the room,” said International Paralympic Committee (IPC) spokesperson Craig Spence. Spence said the Afghanistan flag appearing at Tuesday’s Opening Ceremony had been the “first step to keep the door open” and their arrival was “a very strong message of hope to many others around the world”. Khudadadi will compete in the women’s -49kg K44 taekwondo on Thursday. Sprinter Rasouli will go in the men’s T47 long jump on Tuesday having arrived too late for his favoured T47 100m. “As you can imagine after a very turbulent week, both athletes were exhausted following their flight last night,” added Spence. Day 5 of the Games began with American Kendall Gretsch snatching triathlon gold right on the line in a dramatic finish after Australia’s Lauren Parker had led almost the entire race at Odaiba Marine Park Sunday. Parker was hampered by backmarkers on the final lap, with the crucial seconds lost enabling Gretsch to reel her in to win by less than the length of her wheelchair. “I couldn’t see her in front of me until halfway through that lap,” said Gretsch. “As soon as I saw her, I was like, ‘Hey! You just have to do it. You have to give everything you can’.” Silver medallist Parker said she could not have done anything more: “I put my head down and went for it. I’m pretty proud of my efforts.” Sixth gold for Cockroft The wheelchair rugby final promises explosive action, pitting the might of the USA team against Great Britain, who broke Japanese hearts by beating the hosts and 2018 World Champions 55-49 in the semi-finals. The USA beat Australia, the 2016 Rio gold medallists, 49-42 in Saturday’s other last-four encounter. – AFP