Youngest Paralympian Swims for Change in Tokyo
Teenage swimmer Husnah Kukundakwe says she wants to change attitudes towards people with disabilities in Uganda
The youngest Paralympian in Tokyo took to the pool on Thursday looking to change attitudes to disability, as more world records were smashed on the second day of competition.
In a reminder of the continuing risks posed by the pandemic, organizers said a Games participant had been hospitalized after testing positive for Covid, but insisted the event would remain safe.
China’s Guo Lingling won the women’s -41kg powerlifting, sending the world record tumbling and helping her country join Australia at the top of the medal table with six golds each.
“This is the first time I’ve participated in the Paralympic Games, so to break a world record and win this medal for China is very special for me,” said Guo, 32.
Australia and China topped the medal table with six golds each
Spanish cyclist Alfonso Cabello also had the best time ever in the men’s C4 1000m time trial, adding to the nine world records beaten on Wednesday in track cycling and swimming.
The Games’ youngest Paralympian, 14-year-old Ugandan swimmer Husnah Kukundakwe, competed on Thursday morning in the 100m breaststroke in the SB8 category.
Kukundakwe, who was born without her right forearm and has an impairment to her left hand, did not make the final but said she felt she could “touch the clouds” after a personal best time.
She said she wants to change attitudes towards people with disabilities in Uganda, and give “these kids a chance”.
She is just months younger than fellow teenage swimmer Miyuki Yamada, who became Japan’s youngest ever Paralympic medallist on Wednesday.
Japan enjoyed a gold rush at the Olympics, finishing third after the United States and China, and its record Paralympic delegation hope to do the same.
On Thursday Japan’s women’s wheelchair basketball team beat Great Britain 54-48 in the group stages, with player Mari Amimoto saying she was “a little surprised, because they were strong.”
Britain’s Paralympians found glory at the Izu Velodrome, however, with Jaco van Gass taking gold and his teammate Finlay Graham winning silver in the men’s C3 3,000m individual pursuit final.
On the wheelchair basketball pitch, the United States men’s team beat Germany 58-52
Paralympic Village Cases
Competitions are taking place mostly without spectators to minimize infection risks, and organizers have announced 184 Covid cases linked to the Games.
Tokyo 2020 said Thursday that a “stakeholder involved in the Games” has been hospitalized after testing positive for Covid-19.
Japanese media reported that the individual was not an athlete, and does not have severe symptoms.
Most of the cases at the Games are among staff and contractors living in Japan, which is facing a record Covid-19 wave, but Thursday’s 15 new cases included two athletes from overseas staying in the Paralympic Village.
Organizers did not give details of which teams the pair belong to, or whether they were linked to any other positive tests.
Competitions are taking place mostly without spectators
There have been 13 cases detected in the Paralympic Village so far, including five athletes.
Two-time wheelchair rugby champions Australia face off against France on Thursday, hoping to wrest back their chances of extending their winning streak after a shock loss to Denmark on Wednesday in the high-impact sport.
And on the wheelchair basketball court, the United States men’s team beat Germany 58-52 while the women play Spain on Thursday afternoon, with both male and female US sides aiming to defend their golds from Rio 2016.
Track cycling is among the medal events on the second day of competition
In a battle of the goalball giants, 2016 Rio Paralympics silver medallists USA inflicted a first defeat in five years on Brazil with an pulsating 8-6 Group A victory at the Makuhari Messe Arena in which the lead changed hands four times.
Brazil, who had not lost since gaining the bronze medal on home turf in 2016, are still in good shape to qualify for the quarter-finals after dismantling reigning champions Lithuania 11-2 in their opening match on Wednesday.
“It’s a roller-coaster of a sport,” US center Calahan Young admitted to AFP after a man-of-the-match display in which he scored four goals. “I’ve never beaten this team before in my life, they are an incredible team.”
by Andrew MCKIRDY / Katie FORSTER