Posted on Friday 3rd September, 2021

Highlights from Tokyo today – Day 9:

  • Double GOLD, SILVER and BRONZE medallist Sophie Pascoe finishes 5th in the Women’s 100m Butterfly S9 and will leave Japan with 4 medals and a total of 19 Paralympic medals since 2008.
  • Our Para canoeists got underway, with Scott Martlew setting an exceptionally fast time in the Men’s Kayak Single 200m KL2 Heats, qualifying fastest and going straight into tomorrow’s final.
  • Blade runner Anna Steven, false start leads to disqualification in Wómens 100m T64 heat
  • Para swimmer Jesse Reynolds, and Para cyclists Nicole Murray, Stephen Hills and Eltje Malzbender all finish out their campaigns at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Coming up tomorrow – Day 10:

  • Scott Martlew will compete in the Men’s Kayak Single 200m KL2 Finals, with Corbin Hart to compete a semi-final of the Men’s Kayak Single 200m KL3, after finishing 7th in the Heats today.
  • Anna Grimaldi (Paralympian #195) competes in the Women’s Long Jump T47, hoping to repeat the spectacular GOLD medal she won in this event at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
  • Paralympic Games and Commonwealth Games SILVER medallist, Holly Robinson, is out to try and take it one better, as she competes for GOLD in the Women’s Javelin Throw F46 Final.
  • Nikita Howarth returns for her final event, the Women’s 50m Butterfly S7.
  • Para cyclist Sarah Ellington competes in the Women’s C1-3 Road Race.

New Zealanders continue to throw their support behind the New Zealand Paralympic Team in Tokyo, with an avid viewership of the daily TV broadcast and today, a social media milestone met – Paralympics New Zealand has officially reached over 1 million Facebook fans with posts from the past 9 days of competition.

The team now has a collective 10 medals, with spectacular performances from Sophie Pascoe seeing her become the highest medal winner with 2 GOLD, 1 SIVLER and 1 BRONZE. And it’s not over, with several medal chances still available. Keep an eye out for Anna Grimaldi, Holly Robinson, Scott Martlew and more!

PARA SWIMMING

  • Sophie Pascoe

New Zealand’s most decorated Paralympian, Sophie Pascoe, finished her Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games campaign with a 5th place in the Women’s 100m Butterfly S9. Pascoe led from the blocks and at the turn, was a body length ahead of her nearest competitor. As the field streaked toward the wall, Pascoe began to slow as her nearest competitors began to charge. With only metres to go, she was passed by four other competitors. The last two strokes were a challenge, as she applied superhuman strength at the last moment to throw her hands to the wall. She finished in 1:09.31, with the gold going to Zsofia Konkoly (Hungary) in a time of 1:06.55, followed by Elisabeth Smith (USA) and Sarai Gascon (Spain) in the silver and bronze. Earlier in the day, Pascoe had set a similar qualifying time of 1:09.58, to finish second fastest in her heat.

Pascoe said: “I left it all out there and… I don’t know whether I can reflect on it right now! There’s just a lot running through my mind, and it’s been a big week, it’s been a big year, so maybe in a few weeks I will be able to give you an answer (on my reflections).

Obviously, it’s not the way I wanted to finish but I am pretty proud of myself for getting here to start with, with the year that’s been, and the lead-up coming onto this Games it’s been very challenging so, to be able to come away with the two golds, a silver and a bronze… right now it doesn’t feel like it, but it is a massive achievement!”

Pascoe’s sporting story is well known, with her left leg amputated below the knee at age two in a lawnmower accident. She made her debut at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games securing three gold and one silver medal. Four years later?in London she continued her world class performances winning three gold and three silver medals. At her third Paralympic Games, Rio 2016, she won three gold and two silver medals.

Pascoe leaves Japan with 4 medals and a total of 19 medals across the last four Paralympic Games. Over the past 9 days she won medals in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke SB8 (SILVER), the Women’s 100m Backstroke S9 (BRONZE), the Women’s 100m Freestyle S9 (GOLD) and the Women’s 200m Individual Medley SM9 (GOLD). She has well and truly re-cemented her place as a true New Zealand sporting legend.

  • Jesse Reynolds

Jesse Reynolds also finished his Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games campaign today, finishing 6th in Heat 2 of the Men’s 100m Butterfly S9, and not progressing to the finals. During the competition, Reynolds also raced in the Men’s 400m Freestyle S9 (not qualifying for the final), the Men’s 100m Backstroke S9 (finishing 6th, setting a PB – personal best and a NZ record) and the Men’s 200m Individual Medley SM9 (finishing 7th).

Reynolds said: “It’s been a cool competition; I’ve loved being here. A lot of hard races. I’m pretty exhausted now to be honest. But glad to finally get here, glad to finally get some racing in, its been a really long five years since Rio and my team’s put a massive amount of work in to get me here, so I’m just really grateful for all their help and I hope I’ve done them proud this week!”

A Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games veteran, Reynolds has a limb deficiency. Reynolds competed in his first Paralympic Games at Rio 2016, where he swam a personal best time in the 100m Butterfly S9 final and finished seventh in the 100m Backstroke S9 in a time of 1:05.57, shattering his previous personal best time. He was the first kiwi Paralympian to compete at Tokyo 2020.

PARA CYCLING – ROAD

  • Nicole Murray

Another Paralympian finishing up her campaign in Japan was Para cyclist, Nicole Murray. Murray competed in the Women’s C4-5 Road Race, in terrible weather, to finish an outstanding 6th amongst a competitive field of 15 in a time of 2:25:27. The gold was won by Paralympic legend, Dame Sarah Storey (Great Britain), in a time of 2:21:51, with silver to compatriot Crystal Lane-Wright and bronze to Marie Patouillet (France).

Murray said: “I felt pretty good being out there, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in my cycling career so I was pretty excited to see what I could do. My goal was to just stay with the lead bunch longer than I ever had in the past, which has only ever been for about half the race. And then this time I managed to stay with them pretty much right up until the end. It was super awesome. I fought so hard getting dropped every lap, I’m pretty proud of how I rode. Obviously, it was raining super hard, but in a way that worked out in my favour in terms of temperature. But it did mean we had to be extra cautious on all the corners around here. I think it hits you when you finish your last race, the enormity of what you have done. It’s pretty special!”

Murray has a limb deficiency (left wrist), so rides with adaptations and modifications to the handlebars of her bike. Her impairment is an acquired disability, following a lawnmower accident at the age of just 5. Over the past 9 days she competed first in the Velodrome, taking on the Women’s C5 3000m Individual Pursuit (finishing 4th, after a ride off for the bronze) and the Women’s C4-5 500m Time Trial (finishing 6th and setting a PB – personal best). She then moved to the Fiji International Speedway for the Women’s C5 Time Trial on the road (also finishing 6th), before her final event today, the Women’s C4-5 Road Race.

  • Stephen Hills

Trike competitor Stephen Hills (Paralympian #196) was back on the road at the Fuji International Speedway today, also battling the awful weather conditions. He finished 6th in the Men’s T1-2 Road Race, with the gold medal going to Jianxin Chen (China), silver to Tim Celen (Belgium) and bronze to Juan Jose Betancourt Quiroga (Columbia). Hills already competed in the Men’s T1-2 Time Trial in Tokyo this week.

Hills said: “It was extremely hard work, especially when they got away from me on the first part of the first lap, yeah I just couldn’t drag them back. My takeaway from this competition is, more training, more training. More endurance training in my legs to keep up with them at this level.”

Stephen Hills has right side hemiplegia, causing muscle weakness and partial paralysis on the right side of his body, which he developed at age 5, after he was hit by a motorbike as he crossed the road to catch the bus. Hills switched from competing on a two-wheeled bike, to a trike, in hopes of creating more opportunity for success in Para cycling competitions. That certainly was the case when Hills placed 8th in both the Men’s T1-2 Road Time Trial and Men’s T1-2 Road Race at Rio 2016, only two years after starting. Hills won a bronze medal in the Men’s Road Race T2 at the 2019 UCI Para Cycling Road World Championships.

Hills has now completed his Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games campaign.

  • Eltje Malzbender

Eltje Malbender began the Women’s T1-2 Road Race today at the Fuiji International Speedway, however subsequently decided to withdraw as the course was assessed to be too dangerous. It is disappointing for Malzbender and her supporters that she has had to withdraw however keeping Paralympians safe is the top priority. Malzbender is now finished in Tokyo, after 5th in a highly competitive Women’s T1-2 Time Trial on Tuesday.

Eltje Malzbender was left for dead after a hit and run, coming back from a coma that was classified as the lowest survivable outcome. She now lives with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) meaning she has challenges with many aspects of mobility and life: ataxia, sudden involuntary movement of limbs, lack of balance, coordination, no proprioception (the ability to sense movement). She was left unable to speak and patiently re-learned it. She was left with no short-term memory, double vision, and other mental and physical problems. Despite doctors’ scepticism, she was introduced to riding a tricycle. Malzbender was selected on the HPSNZ Pathway to Podium programme with Paralympics New Zealand in 2018 and in 2019 won two rainbow jerseys and gold medals at the UCI Para Cycling Road World Championships to qualify for Tokyo.

PARA CANOE

  • Scott Martlew

Paralympian Scott Martlew (#196) was out on the water for the first time today, taking on his first two heats. He won his Men’s Kayak Single 200m KL2 Heat in a time of 43.588 after an outstanding race, in which he clawed his way from fourth to first in the final few metres. He has gone straight through to the finals, taking place tomorrow (Friday) at 14.10 NZT. Martlew also took on the Men’s Va’a Single 200m Heat VL3, with Va’a a new Paralympic discipline for him. He finished 6th in his Heat, in a time of 55.439, +3.913 seconds behind the first-place finisher. Martlew will also progress through to the semifinals taking place on Saturday.

Martlew said after the Men’s KL2 Heats: “Yeah, nah, it was excellent to blow the cobwebs out and get the first race underway. Pretty happy with how it went and looking forward to the next one. Definitely happy with the strong start. That was the plan: have a good heat and get straight through to the final!”

Then added after the Men’s VL3 Heats: “Yeah, for the kayak heat (KL2), I really just wanted to smash it and win the heat and go through to the final tomorrow, and that’s what we did. Had a bit of an average start and then came through in the finish, so happy with that. Yeah, and then with the Va’a (VL3), it was just a blowout. I’ve now got to save myself for tomorrow’s final in the kayak. So, I’ll go through to the semi on Saturday for the Va’a and hopefully the final. Yeah, so very happy for the first day, I’ll head back to the village and rest up and get some food in and get ready for tomorrow.”

Active in a range of paddle sports as a youngster, Scott Martlew took up kayaking at the age of 16 dreaming of one day making the Olympics. However, the following year he sustained a tear to his left quadriceps playing rugby. The tear became infected with a flesh-eating bacteria and his leg had to be amputated in order to save his life. In the wake of his life changing circumstances, Martlew readjusted his goals. He moved into Para canoe racing and made his Paralympic debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. There competing in the KL3 200m he finished a highly respectable eighth place on debut. He was reclassified in 2018 as a KL2 (a classification for athletes with a more severe disability). At the 2018 World Championships, Martlew made a major impact; winning a KL2 200m silver to climb the podium for the first time on the global stage. In 2019, he concluded a highly successful year by winning KL2 200m World Championships bronze.

  • Corbin Hart

Paralympic debutant Corbin Hart joined Martlew out on the water today, competing in the Men’s Kayak Single 200m KL3 Heats. Hart finished 7th, taking him through to a semifinal tomorrow (Friday) at 13.12 NZT.

Hart said: “I was very nervous, but I’m glad it’s done and yeah, look forward to tomorrow! Got a bit crushed up at the start but you know, we managed to get a good speed up and just blew towards the end there.”

Corbin Hart has enjoyed a meteoric rise to his first Paralympic Games. A surf lifesaving enthusiast in his youth – in late-2019 he lost his right leg in a civil road accident. Choosing to adopt a positive in July 2020, he acted on the advice of friend Caitlin Regal, the four-time World Championship canoe sprint medallist, to give kayaking a go. Last October – just three months after he first sat in a kayak – Corbin made his competitive debut at the Blue Lake 1 regatta in Rotorua. There he impressed to win the Division 2 K1 500m A Final and finish second in the K1 200m A Final. Intending to focus his efforts on qualifying for the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games, Corbin instead switched his emphasis on trying to make the team for Tokyo on the recommendation of Leigh Barker, coach to fellow New Zealand Paralympic Team member Scott Martlew. He then headed to Szeged, Hungary in May 2021, where managed to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

PARA ATHLETICS

Blade runner Anna Steven returned to the Tokyo Olympic Stadium for the Women’s 100m T64 heat. Following the first heat where a new Paralympic record was set Steven unfortunately had a false start which led to disqualification.

Steven said: “Obviously I’m quite devastated as I’ve been practising my starts quite a lot especially the stability aspect of it. And it didn’t come together on that race unfortunately. I’m going to take away so much from these Paralympics. It is a big milestone in my athletics career so far and I’m really stoked with how I did in the 200 so just tyring to take the positives from this experience.”

At age 13, Anna Steven had six months of chemotherapy and major surgery that led to the amputation of her leg. When Anna first began to run, she saw an opportunity to become a national-level athlete and push her limits, but also inspire others living with disability to get involved in sport. She began running competitively in 2016 when she was 16 years old. She had been inspired after seeing the performances of the New Zealand Paralympic Team at Rio 2016, particularly Paralympian #197 Liam Malone, a fellow Kiwi blade runner. Then, after meeting Liam at a ‘welcome home’ event and attending an Open Day event for Para sport, one of the support staff suggested Anna try Para athletics, and she decided to give it a go.

What’s on tomorrow – Day 10:

  • Scott Martlew will compete in the Men’s Kayak Single 200m KL2 Finals, with Corbin Hart to compete in semifinal of the Men’s Kayak Single 200m KL3, after finishing 7th in the Heats today.
  • Anna Grimaldi (Paralympian #195) competes in the Women’s Long Jump T47, hoping to repeat the spectacular GOLD medal she won in this event at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
  • Paralympic Games and Commonwealth Games SILVER medallist, Holly Robinson, is out to try and take it one better, as she competes for GOLD in the Women’s Javelin Throw F46 Final.
  • Nikita Howarth returns for her final event, the Women’s 50m Butterfly S7.
  • Para cyclist Sarah Ellington competes in the Women’s C1-3 Road Race.
Para sportEventAthleteNZ Time *
Para swimmingWomen’s 50m Butterfly – S7 HeatsNikita Howarth12.56
Para cyclingWomen’s C1-3 Road RaceSarah Ellington12.35
Para athleticsWomen’s Long Jump – T47 Final  Anna Grimaldi12.35
Para canoeMen’s KL3 SemifinalsCorbin Hart13.12
Para canoeMen’s KL2 FinalsScott Martlew14.10
Para canoeMen’s KL3 Finals (if qualified)Corbin Hart14.36
Para swimmingWomen’s 50m Butterfly – S7 Final (if qualified)Nikita Howarth21.04
Para canoeWomen’s 100m – T64 Round 1 – FinalAnna Steven22.14
Para canoeWomen’s Javelin Throw – F46 Final  Holly Robinson22.28