US wheelchair racing legend Tatyana McFadden won her 18th Paralympic medal on Saturday, while elsewhere at the Tokyo Games charismatic Italian fencer Beatrice “Bebe” Vio attempted to defend her title.
On Day 4 of the competition, a total of 54 gold medals were up for grabs across nine different sports, including 17 athletics finals at the Olympic Stadium.
McFadden took bronze in the women’s T54 5,000m to extend her streak of finishing on the podium in every Paralympic race she has entered since 2008.
But she said just competing in Tokyo was a victory in itself, having been diagnosed with a blood-clotting disorder in 2017 that took almost two years to recover from.
“I’m on cloud nine,” said the 32-year-old, who was born in Russia and raised in an orphanage until she was adopted at the age of six.
“I was in a really dark spot because it took me 20 months to recover, and everyone was getting better in those 20 months.”
McFadden added that it was “quite amazing” that she took the bronze behind US team-mate Susannah Scaroni, who won gold.
Away from the track, Italian force of nature Vio, one of the world’s most recognizable Paralympians, began the defence of her wheelchair fencing individual foil title from the 2016 Rio Games.
Vio, who had both forearms and legs amputated when she contracted meningitis as an 11-year-old, won all her morning pool bouts to book her place in the quarter-finals.
Vio had not been able to compete for two years before the Games because of the pandemic, and admitted she was “scared” as she prepared to return to action in Tokyo.
“I don’t know what is going to happen this time, but I’m just so happy to be here,” she said on the eve of the Games.
Also on Saturday, the boccia competition got underway with all four individual gold medallists from the Rio Games returning to defend their titles.
Hong Kong’s BC4 champion Leung Yuk-wing will try to repeat his Athens 2004 feat of winning gold in individual and pairs events.
“I am trying to be relaxed to face the game, because just thinking about being the champion or the gold medal would be a lot of pressure,” he said.
Away from the competition, organizers apologised after a visually impaired Japanese judoka was hit by a self-driving bus in the Paralympic village on Thursday.
Tokyo 2020 suspended operation of the vehicles after the accident, where one of the buses “made contact” with Aramitsu Kitazono.
Kitazono was scheduled to compete in the men’s -81kg competition on Saturday morning, but did not start his match against Ukraine’s Dmytro Solovey.
Organizers denied local media reports that the 30-year-old would need two weeks to recover.
The buses were jointly operated by Tokyo 2020 and Toyota, which developed the autonomous shuttle buses used in the compound.
Organizers said they were probing the cause of the accident.