Germany's 'Blade Jumper' leaps into competition at Tokyo Paralympics
Tokyo (AFP) –
A German long jumper who leaps further than his Olympic counterparts and a US swimmer who survived a bomb detonated by her parents are among the stars competing at the Tokyo Paralympics on Wednesday.
Markus Rehm, known as the "Blade Jumper", is eyeing his fourth Paralympic gold and third straight victory in the long jump T64.
He has said he wants to "attack" his own world record, which he set in June with a jump of 8.62m that would have won gold at every Olympics since 1992.
There are 43 medals up for grabs on Wednesday, and badminton is appearing for the first time, as one of two Paralympic sports making their debut in Tokyo.
And with the Games entering the final stretch before Sunday's closing ceremony, competition is heating up, with the first medals in wheelchair tennis.
US swimmer Haven Shepherd was back in the pool on Wednesday in the SB7 100 breaststroke heats, where she missed out on a finals spot.
Shepherd, 18, was just over a year old and living in rural Vietnam when her birth parents -- who she has been told were having an affair and could not marry -- decided to kill themselves and their baby.
They strapped themselves to a bomb, held Haven and detonated the device -- killing themselves and blasting their tiny daughter through the air.
She survived, although doctors were forced to amputate her legs, and six months later she was adopted by an American family.
"I'm just going out and having fun. I know that I'm here and I made it. I accomplished my goal of making it to the Paralympics," she said.
- Medical ambitions -
Wheelchair tennis quad doubles teams from Australia and the Netherlands are due to battle it out on Wednesday for the first gold in their sport.
And Tokyo's first champions will also be decided in boccia, a sport similar to boules, designed for athletes with neurological impairments that impact motor function.
And 90 qualified badminton players are ready for their debut Paralympics, with France's double world champion Lucas Mazur facing a challenge from India's Tarun Dhillon in the men's SL4.
Taekwondo, also appearing for the first time at the Paralympics, kicks off on Thursday.
Some athletes in Tokyo, such as Team USA's Sam Grewe, have been juggling stunning performances on the track with other big ambitions.
Grewe, who won gold in the men's high jump T63 on Tuesday, is a medical student who said he has been studying for six hours every day at the Games.
He decided to become a doctor after a cancer-related leg amputation aged 13, having noticed that people with disabilities were under-represented in medicine.
"I wanted to be the doctor who taught a kid about adaptive sports, who helped them learn the opportunities that exist for a person with a new disability, because I had no idea and I was in a really dark period because of that," he said.
On Wednesday, organisers reported seven new positive Covid-19 tests linked to the Games, taking the total reported to 263, mostly among staff and contractors living in Japan.
© 2021 AFP