Taekwondo makes Paralympic debut as Storey pedals to glory
Tokyo (AFP) –
Taekwondo made its Paralympic debut in Tokyo on Thursday as cycling queen Sarah Storey won her road race to beat Britain's record for gold medals at the Games.
With four days left before Sunday's closing ceremony, Morocco prepared to take on five-a-side Goliaths Brazil in the semifinals, and racing later gave way to romance in the Olympic Stadium with a surprise post-run proposal.
Zakia Khudadadi, one of two Afghanistan team members who arrived in Tokyo following a dramatic evacuation from Kabul, fought in the Paralympics' first-ever taekwondo match on Thursday morning.
The martial art, one of two new sports at the Tokyo Games, kicked off a day after badminton made its long-awaited first appearance.
Khudadadi looked stoic as she emerged from behind a curtain for her bout against Uzbekistan's Ziyodakhon Isakova as AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" blared out of speakers around the arena.
The Afghan won the first round 6-5, but fell behind in the second, eventually losing the match 17-12. She has another chance to advance in the afternoon's repechage round.
Officials have said neither Afghan Paralympian will speak to the press in Tokyo, prioritising the athletes' well-being.
"We've left them be for the last few days, just to focus on competition, because that was their dream to compete," International Paralympic Committee spokesman Craig Spence said Thursday.
"We'll now start to have conversations about what happens in terms of the closing ceremony, and where they go next."
Meanwhile, British cycling legend Storey returned to the Fuji International Speedway to claim her 17th Paralympic victory in the women's C4-5 road race.
The indomitable 43-year-old's golden hat-trick in Tokyo makes her the most decorated British Paralympian after swimmer Mike Kenny, who won 16 golds between 1976 to 1988.
Storey won her record-equalling 16th gold on Wednesday and described the next day's race as a "nerve-racking" but exciting opportunity.
"Road races are so unpredictable, they really, really are," she said. "So Thursday morning I'll come out and try to have some fun."
- Paralympic proposal -
Later on Thursday, Morocco's five-a-side team takes on Brazil, who have never lost a match at the Paralympics and are targeting their fifth-straight gold in Tokyo.
Morocco is the only African team competing in the sport, and defender Imad Berka has said they want to "honour the continent" with a place on the podium.
"Being the only representative of Africa is a call of pride but at the same time a big responsibility," he said before the Games.
Japanese wheelchair tennis star Shingo Kunieda is facing Britain's Gordon Reid in the men's singles semifinal in his campaign to win another medal for the host country.
Belgian wheelchair tennis player Joachim Gerard was rushed to hospital on Wednesday after he suddenly felt faint, the country's Olympic Committee said.
The 32-year-old -- who competed from Saturday to Monday -- has regained consciousness and "first research is pointing towards a cardiac issue", it said in a statement.
The Tokyo Paralympics have so far avoided any major coronavirus clusters, although 275 positive tests have been reported by organisers overall, mostly among Japan-based staff and contractors.
On Thursday they confirmed 13 new cases, all but one of whom live in Japan, as the country battles a surge in infections driven by the more infectious Delta variant.
In the soggy Olympic Stadium on Thursday, Cape Verde's Keula Nidreia Pereira Semedo failed to qualify for the women's T11 200m semifinals -- but there was a surprise consolation prize.
After the race, her guide runner Manuel Antonio Vaz da Veiga got down on one knee and proposed. Video of the magic moment showed both athletes beaming as Semedo accepted.
© 2021 AFP