Brazilians take first athletics golds at Tokyo Paralympics

·4 min read

Brazil's Petrucio Ferreira dos Santos, dubbed the Usain Bolt of para athletics, took gold in Paralympic record time in Tokyo on Friday, as US "armless archer" Matt Stutzman began his medal campaign.

A total of 45 Paralympic golds were up for grabs on Friday, with a range of sports getting started, including archery, athletics and judo, which is being contested at Tokyo's iconic Budokan venue.

Sprinter Ferreira dos Santos capped a successful day for his nation in the relative cool of the Tokyo evening by blazing home in 10.53 for a new Paralympic record and gold in the men's T45 100m.

"The emotions are hard to describe," said the 24-year-old, whose arm was amputated below the elbow after a childhood accident.

His victory came despite sustaining a thigh injury a week before the Games.

"That was quite scary, but I tried to focus on my rehab," he said, describing the support from his wife.

"Maybe she was more nervous than I was," he added.

"I told her: 'Stay calm, I am sure I will recover in time and I will go for that medal'."

His win came after Brazilians earlier claimed the first track-and-field medals of the Tokyo Paralympics, with Yeltsin Jacques kicking things off by squeezing out Japan's Kenya Karasawa to top the podium in the men's 5,000m T11 final.

Jacques, who is visually impaired and runs with a guide, said his win was the culmination of five years of training.

"I have speed, I have energy. I'm naturally fast, it's genetics," added Jacques, who will also contest the 1,500m and marathon in the T11 category.

Fellow Brazilian Silvania Costa de Oliveira meanwhile took the first gold of the field events, successfully defending the title she won in Rio in the women's T11 long jump.

But it wasn't just Brazilians topping the podium Friday at the Olympic Stadium where athletics is being held, as Tunisian Raoua Tlili claimed shot put gold for a fourth straight Games, beating her previous world record in the F41 final with a throw of 10.55m.

The 31-year-old will attempt to repeat the throwing gold double she achieved at the 2016 Rio Games when she competes in the discus next Wednesday.

"When I find some obstacles in my life, it is not a problem for me because I am very strong to overcome them," she said.

"I have overcome my disability, so why can I not overcome the obstacles of my life?"

- 'Huge message of hope' -

In the pool meanwhile, swimmer Abbas Karimi fell short in his bid to become the first Paralympic refugee team member ever to win a medal after qualifying Friday morning in the men's S5 50m butterfly.

The Afghan-born 24-year-old, who was born with no arms, had said his sights were set firmly on gold.

He was unable to live up to his expectations, finishing last in the final, but refugee team chief Ileana Rodriguez said he had sent a "huge message of hope".

"We are representing 82 million people who are displaced around the world, and we have 12 million people with a disability who are refugees," she said.

"It's a huge message that someone can go this far."

Elsewhere, Australia's rugby wheelchair team advanced to the semi-finals, despite a 57-53 loss to Japan.

The defending gold medallists suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Denmark earlier in the week, with team captain Ryley Batt admitting the loss had left his team "pretty embarrassed".

But the Steelers took down France on Thursday in a 50-48 result that rekindled their hopes of a record third consecutive gold medal.

Archery competition also began Friday, with the spotlight on Iranian star Zahra Nemati, who won golds in both Rio and London, and American Matt Stutzman, who famously shoots with his feet.

The 38-year-old Stutzman was sporting a new, slimmer look as he aims to make up for missing out on a medal five years ago.

"I could probably shoot another 300 arrows, like I'm not tired at all, I'm ready to go," he said after breaking the old Paralympic Games record, but only placing 12th in a high-class competition to decide seedings for the knockout rounds.

"I feel like Superman... but not quite."

bur-amk-sah/axn