Shot putter Deepa Malik makes history as India's first female Paralympic medalist
Cuba's Omara Durand wins her second gold of Rio 2016 in 200 meter
Day five’s action in Rio was packed with emotion and drama as 48 gold medals were awarded across eight sports.
Alongside world records, more good news came in the form of ticket sales as the Rio Paralympics surpassed early warnings to become the second biggest Games yet in terms of tickets sold.
An estimated 1.9 million tickets have been bought – 76% of the 2.5 million available – silencing critics while putting Rio behind only London 2012 in filling its Paralympic seats.
Malik makes history
Indian shot putter Deepa Malik made history Monday by becoming the country’s first woman to win a Paralympic medal.
The 45-year-old threw a personal best of 4.61 meters to win silver in the F53 class, a category for seated athletes with full arm power but limited hand muscles.
Three spinal operations to remove a tumor left Malik paralyzed from the chest down. In 2009 she became the first paraplegic driver to take part in the Raid de Himalaya, one of the world’s highest and most challenging motor rallies.
“I am absolutely thrilled, I am so happy that I can give this to my country,” she told the Games’ official website.
“I dared to dream and I have determination to work hard and the passion and perseverance to follow that dream. Women often lose that and I have ensured that my family is not neglected, my children are doing well, too.”
Malik’s sixth and silver-winning throw put her ahead of Greece’s Dimitra Korokida, who won bronze with her season’s best of 4.28 meters. Bahrain’s Fatema Nedham won the gold with 4.76 meters, a regional record.
Indian wrestler Geeta Phogat, who at London 2012 became the first female Indian wrestler to qualify for the Olympics, paid tribute to Malik on Instagram.
“You have made India proud,” she wrote.
No stopping Durand
Meanwhile, Cuba’s Omara Durand, the fastest female Paralympian of all time, showed that not even her deteriorating eyesight can stop her winning more gold medals.
Durand won double gold at London 2012 in the 100-meter and 400-meter’s T13 race, for athletes who are visually impaired. But after giving birth to her daughter Erika in 2013, the 24-year-old’s sight worsened; at Rio she competes in the T12 class for the first time.
This hasn’t slowed the sprinter down, and on Friday she smashed a world record in the 100-meter, winning gold in 11.40 seconds.
On Monday, Durand cemented her unstoppable status in the 200-meter final by storming across the finish to win gold in 23.05 seconds, a Paralympic record and just 0.02 off her world record mark.
Ukraine’s Oksana Boturchuk took home the silver medal with a new European record (23.65 seconds), while Azerbaijan’s Elena Chebanu set an Asian record by winning bronze with 23.80 seconds.
Durand hopes to bag her fifth gold medal on Saturday as she competes in the 400-meter T12 final.
Grandma’s gift inspires
Having collapsed to the floor in anguish after his Paralympic table tennis final defeat four years ago, Great Britain’s Will Bayley crowned Rio 2016 gold by clambering up onto the table in elation.
Thousands of partisan supporters baying for Brazil’s Israel Pereira Stroh fell silent, while for Bayley, a lifetime of trials and tribulations came to a triumphant head.
“Words don’t do it justice,” Bayley told Britain’s Channel 4 after he beat his opponent 3-1. “Great Britain were laughed at when I first joined the squad and now we’re a force. I’ve realized the impossible.”
A yellow card for his exuberance was a small price to pay as the 28-year-old hugged everyone from the umpire to English comedian Johnny Vegas.
In an event traditionally dominated by China, Bayley became the first British singles Paralympic gold medal winner since 1988. Even Stroh, who must settle for silver, had beaten him in the group stages this year.
Born with arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disease leading to contracture of the limbs, Bayley was only able to walk as a child with the aid of special boots, after years of reconstruction operations.
At age 6, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A six-month course of chemotherapy followed as Bayley battled his cancer and eventually found salvation through sport.
But his gold in Rio two decades on may never have been achieved without the input of his late grandmother. Her gift of a table tennis table sparked a lifetime’s passion, a fact not lost on Bayley as he broke into floods of tears on live television after the match.
“This is for my grandma. I miss her and I hope she’s watching me.”
Nigeria’s record-breaking power lifters
A day after Nigeria’s Lucy Ejike lifted 142 kilograms to smash the world record in the -61 kilogram category for the third successive time, fellow Nigerian Bose Omolayo beat her own world record, winning gold in the -79 kilogram power lifting competition.
Omolayo bagged the country’s sixth gold medal this Paralympics by lifting 138 kilograms, a kilo more than her world record set at the 2015 Powerlifting Asian Open Championships.
That puts Nigeria in 10th position in the medals table overall, with six golds at the time of writing.
However, in power lifting, the west African nation leads the pack, with five gold medals won so far.
8-year doping ban
While Nigeria’s power lifters celebrate, Saudi Arabia’s commiserate: The International Paralympic Committee has announced an eight-year doping ban for Mashal Alkhazai after the second anti-doping violation of his career.
Alkhazai, who was due to compete in the men’s +107 kilogram event on Wednesday, tested positive for the steroid metenolone, according to the IPC’s website.
The 36-year-old will be ineligible to compete until September 12, 2024.
Weightlifting to weight loss
Great Britain’s Aled Davies put in a dominant display in the men’s shot put F42, a classification for athletes with a lower limb impairment.
Davies was devastated after the F42 discus, the event in which he won gold at London 2012, was removed from the Rio lineup.
But disappointment turned to glory after the 25-year-old teamed up with new coach Ryan Spencer-Jones and lost 38 kilograms to prepare himself for Monday’s shot put final, an event he won bronze in at London 2012.
Monday, Davies’ first attempt broke the Paralympic record and his last one reached 15.97 meters, 1.66 meters clear of his competitors.
“I’m just so happy I was able to deliver,” Davies told Paralympic broadcasters after the event.
“I wanted to try a different avenue, I moved to Ryan Spencer-Jones and the first thing he said is, ‘Let’s strip you down’. He’s rebuilt me to a shot put gold medalist and I can’t thank him enough.”