Posted on Thursday 2nd September, 2021

Highlights from Tokyo yesterday – Day 8:

  • GOLD to Sophie Pascoe, taking her medal haul for Tokyo 2020 to 4 medals in total and her total career tally at the Paralympic Games to 19 over four Paralympics (11 gold, 7 silver and 1 bronze).
  • Sprinter Danielle Aitchison wins BRONZE, to add to her outstanding SILVER earlier this week.
  • Tupou Neiufi (Paralympian #201) delivered another strong performance to take a close 5th.
  • Rio 2016 gold medallist Nikita Howarth hit the pool for the first time, finishing a narrow 4th.
  • Hand-cyclist Rory Mead was back out on the road today, with an outstanding 5th placing.

Coming up today – Day 9:

  • Double GOLD, SILVER and BRONZE medallist Sophie Pascoe is back for her final event.
  • Our Para canoeists get underway, with Scott Martlew and Corbin Hart in their first events.
  • Jesse Reynolds hits the pool for his final event, with Blade runner Anna Steven back on track.
  • Our Para cycling team are out on the road at the Fuji Speedway again, with Nicole Murray, and trike competitors Stephen Hills and Eltje Malzbender all back.

Fresh from her first GOLD medal in Tokyo last night, New Zealand’s most decorated Paralympian, Sophie Pascoe, has taken her Paralympic medal haul to a whole new level with a stunning 19 medals in total. She won another GOLD tonight in the Women’s 200m Individual Medley SM9, taking her Tokyo medals tally to 4 total and the total number of GOLD medals in her career to an exceptional 11 across her career.

Young sprinter Danielle Aitchison, at just 20 years of age, has picked up her second medal of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, with a stunning BRONZE in the Women’s 100m T36 Final, just three 100ths of a second ahead of 4th. Aitchison was elated, having already won a SILVER in the Women’s 200m T36.

PARA SWIMMING

– Sophie Pascoe

Pascoe dominated her favoured event and won in a time of 2:32.73. At the end though, she was just two 10ths of a second ahead of silver medallist Zsofia Konkoly (Hungary) on 2:33.00, after nearly being caught on the last leg. Pascoe was off the block very fast and pulled away to a dominant lead in the Butterfly, taking the next three turns in the lead position and pulling away through the Backstroke and Breaststroke. About halfway through the last leg, the Freestyle, the Hungarian began chasing her down and another few lengths might have done it. Nuria Soto Marques took the bronze in a time of 2:35.64. Pascoe’s latest medal came after collecting a GOLD, SILVER and BRONZE over the last few days of competition. Pascoe had already set the tone for the event earlier, with a dominant performance in the heats and the fastest qualifying time.

Pascoe said: “I did really leave it all out there and even left some on the side of the pool. But that is what a fight is all about and I really wanted it, I wanted to make it a four-pet. It just came down to that last 10 metres not breathing. That comes down to the skills that Roly [Crichton] and I have been working on for many years doing this race. I can say you have just witnessed my last ever 200 IM. I will be cutting the events down now so it is nice to finish on a positive and with a gold. The mentality in that race was just to fight and dig deep. It came down to experience and that is what got me this gold medal. To come away with the four-pet I’m proud of myself. I’m so lucky to have Matt [Ingram] and Megan [Munro] on the side of the pool to get me medical attention. The fact the IPC moved the medal ceremony just shows how much respect they have for the athletes.”

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. To date in Tokyo, she has won a SILVER medal in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke SB8 on Day 2, a BRONZE in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S9 on Day 6, and a GOLD in the Women’s 100m Freestyle S9 on Day 7.

Pascoe will be back in the pool for her last event tomorrow (Thursday), the Women’s 100m Butterfly S9.

– Tupou Neiufi

Paralympian Tupou Neiufi (#201) delivered another strong performance in the pool this evening, taking 5th in the Women’s 50m Freestyle S8 by the smallest of margins after qualifying second fastest in the heats. She set a very fast time of 31.48 and was in contention for a medal for the majority but finished a tenth of a second behind fourth place finisher and three tenths off the bronze medal position. The event was won by Viktoriia Ishchiulova (Russian Paralympic Committee) in a time of 29.91, with Cecilia Jeronimo De Araujo (Brazil) in silver and Xenia Palazzo (Italy) in bronze. Neiufi won GOLD in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S8 on Day 3, becoming the first New Zealand Paralympian to win a gold medal in Tokyo.

Neiufi said: “I’m more hyped than I was this morning, it’s the fastest I’ve gone for a long time, I’m just really happy with that! I’m definitely (really proud). I’m not really a freestyler and I wasn’t expecting a final, so its fantastic, really exciting!

“(Thinking about my performances), with the 100m Backstroke, I haven’t been able to come close to that time since how many years, I haven’t really been able to PB since Rio, so to be able to pull that time out, that’s 2 seconds, just over my Rio time, so it really makes me more hungry to come back to Comm Games or the next (Paralympic) Games and push well.

“I’d definitely (tell young people back home), believe in yourself; you can do the things that you see anyone do on TV. And more importantly, just be yourselves, don’t be afraid to give things a go as you never know if you’ll like it, if you don’t give it a try!”

Neiufi, just 20 years of age, debuted at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games five years ago, where she finished 7th in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S9. A South Aucklander of Tongan descent, Neiufi was hit by a speeding car when she was only two years old. This resulted in a left sided hemiplegia, meaning she has paralysis on the left side of her body. Most recently she competed at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, taking to the pool in front of huge audiences and placing 6th in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S9. In 2019, she won a silver in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S8 World Para Swimming Championships.

Neiufi has now finished her competitions and will be leaving Japan with 1 Paralympic medal.

– Nikita Howarth

Paralympian Nikita Howarth (#179) made her first appearance at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games today, finishing a narrow 4th in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke SB7 Final. After an exceptionally good start, she was in the hunt right up until the last 25 metres, when top three pulled away slightly. She set a fast time of 1:36.65, just 1.6 seconds adrift of bronze medallist, Tiffany Thomas Kane (Australia). The event was won by a dominant Mariia Pavlova (Russian Paralympic Committee) in 1.31.44, with silver going to Jessica Long (USA). Earlier, Howarth finished second fastest in the heats, with a time half a second faster than her final. Howarth broke her arm in a skateboarding accident just four months before the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Howarth said: “I’m pretty exhausted, yeah, it really took it out of me that time. This morning wasn’t so hard, but this afternoon was definitely harder. I mean, it was bound to be a close finish right, the four of us girls are so close together. I think in the end, it was the girls that had the furthest reach, and that wasn’t me. But that’s alright!

I’m really excited (about the Women’s 50m Butterfly S7), because there’re really not too much pressure on it, and it’s a short and sharp race. It’ll be good to have a quick hit out and see how it goes!”

Howarth is a Rio 2016 gold medallist in the Women’s 200m Individual Medley SM7 and bronze medallist in the Women’s 50m Butterfly S7. She started swimming competitively at 7 and in 2012, at the age of 13, Howarth became the youngest person to represent New Zealand at a Paralympic Games. She described

competing in front of 17,000 fans at the London 2012 Paralympic Games as “overwhelming” but nonetheless was 6th in the 200m Individual Medley SM7. Howarth has double below elbow limb deficiency.

Howarth will be back in the pool on Day 10 (Friday) in the Women’s 50m Butterfly S7.

– Jesse Reynolds

Paralympian Jesse Reynolds (#205) finished 7th in the Men’s 200m Individual Medley SM9 this evening, setting a time of 2:25.62, 8 seconds off the bronze. The gold went to Andrei Kalina (Rusian Paralympic Committee) in a time of 2:14.90, followed by Timothy Hodge (Australia) in silver and Ugo Didier (France).

Reynolds said: “That was a brutal event. I’m not particularly happy with the time to be honest, but its over now. I really enjoyed myself out there, I put everything on the line, it was a hell of a race to be a part of!

“(What I took out of it was) that one-legged guys aren’t good a breaststroke! The breaststroke leg really killed me! You can’t always get out your best on the day, I know I’m capable of faster, so it’s a bit disappointing, but at the same time, pretty awesome to be here and I want to enjoy myself as much as I can. I can’t beat myself up over it, it’s done now! Things were going pretty well until the Breaststroke leg!”

A Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games veteran, Reynolds has a limb deficiency. He was the first kiwi to compete at Tokyo 2020, taking on the Men’s 400m Freestyle S9 Heats on Day 1. Back in a pool on Day 6, Reynolds finished 6th in a hard-fought Men’s 100m Backstroke S9.

Reynolds will compete in his last event, the Men’s 100m Butterfly S9, on Day 9 (Thursday).

PARA CYCLING – ROAD

Paralympian, hand cyclist Rory Mead, delivered a strong second performance at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in the Men’s H1-2 Road Race. On a complicated course that saw many of the field not complete the race he finished 5th, with the gold going to Florian Jouanny (France), with Luca Mazzone (Italy) taking silver and Sergio Garrotte Munoz (Spain) taking the bronze.

Mead made his international debut in the New Zealand Para Cycling Team at the 2018 UCI Para Cycling Road World Championships, producing solid results against strong competition. These include finishing 4th in the Men’s H2 Time Trial, and 5th in the Men’s H2 Road Race. Based in the USA, Mead was a Motocross champion and was competing in the sport he loved when he sustained a spinal cord injury back in 2014. Mead finished 5th in his first event at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, the Men’s H2 Time Trial race.

Mead has now finished his competitions and will be leaving Japan shortly.

PARA ATHLETICS

Danielle Aitchison won BRONZE in the in the Women’s 100m T36 Final, just three 100ths of a second ahead of the 4th placed competitor. She set a time of 14.62 seconds, with the gold medal going to Yiting Shi (China) in a World Record time of 13.61, followed by Elena Ivanova (Russian Paralympic Committee) in silver, in a time of 14.60. Earlier, she had set the fastest qualifying time in Heat 1, in 14.35, 3 tenths of a second faster than her final time. At just 20 years of age, Aitchison has picked up her second medal of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, with a fantastic SILVER in the Women’s 200m T36 earlier this week.

Aitchison said: “It was really brutal. I was confident going in, but with my cerebral palsy, I was just a bit tired going out there, so I was really concentrating towards the end, just, to hold on to the third position. And then once I crossed the line, I was like, have I got it?! It was so close; I was just waiting for the results! I’m really happy to have come away with two medals at the Paralympics, it’s been an amazing experience.”

After quitting team sport in 2016 due to the challenges from her hearing impairment, Aitchison was encouraged by her Mum to attend several disability camps to re-engage her interest in sport. Her love of sprinting was crystallized after she competed at the 2017 Halberg Disability Games. Her focus paid off, with selection to represent New Zealand at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai. On international debut, she flew through her 200m T36 heat securing the fastest qualifier for the final. In the final, it took a world record breaking performance to beat her to the gold medal. With a silver under her belt, she lined up in the 100m T36, securing 4th in the final. Aitchison won a Paralympic silver medal in Tokyo.

Aitchison has now finished her competitions and will be leaving Japan with 2 Paralympic medals.

SHOOTING PARA SPORT

By the smallest of margins, just 0.2 points, 5-time Paralympian Michael Johnson did not make the finals of the R5 – Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone today in Tokyo. He finished 9th, one spot outside the top 8 qualifiers.

“I started off with my first couple of strings, (they) were a little bit low, that’s probably what put me a little bit behind. And I guess I was a little bit nervous in the beginning and I found that the target wasn’t as clear, it was blurring out a little bit, so I wasn’t as accurate. We had a lot of humidity in the range today, even my guard, there was a lot of moisture on that. So, I started off low and then built up and I had a good 107 string and I thought, oh, that’s going to put me in good contention. Then finished strong on a 10.9 and I think it was a couple of shots before that I hit a 10.3 and that’s what did a bit of damage. Missed out by only 0.2!

“I think the main thing (ahead of my final event on Saturday) is that you get stronger and stronger throughout the week, and you feel a little bit more confident. So, it’s just accepting that you are going to be a bit nervous and it is going to be hot, and not focussing on that – just continue on as best you can!”

Johnson has represented New Zealand at five consecutive Paralympic Games, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. He won the gold medal in the R4 – Mixed 10m AR Standing SH2 at Athens 2004 and bronze in the same event at the next two Paralympics (Beijing 2008 and London 2012). Injured in a motor accident aged 22, Johnson returned to university to study a Bachelor of Information Systems before, in his late 20s, he spotted a brochure promoting target shooting and decided to give the sport a go. Johnson is also a coach and loves supporting and developing upcoming kiwi Para athletes.

Johnson will be back on the range on Day 11 (Saturday) in the R9 – Mixed 50m Rifle Prone SH2.

What’s on today – Day 9:

Jesse Reynolds and Sophie Pascoe compete in their respective Men’s and Women’s 100m Butterfly – S9 event.

Para cyclists Nicole Murray, Eltje Malzbender, and Stephen Hills, are back at the Fuji International Speedway, this time to compete in Road Race for their respective Classifications.

Our Para canoeists will be in action at the Sea Forest Waterway with Scott Martlew competing in the Men’s KL2 and Men’s VL3, and Corbin Hart competing in the Men’s KL3.

The Para athletics night session will feature Anna Steven in the Women’s 100m – T64 event.

* Please note race times are subject to change by organisers, with limited advance notice.