If you thought all the sporting fun from Tokyo finished on the 8th of August with the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics – you’d be wrong. Come August 24 it was the turn of the superhumans, as the Tokyo Paralympics got underway. Right from the off, the tournament was a stunning display of sporting magnificence and immutable human spirit. From the pool to the velodrome and beyond there was history making moment after history making moment. New heroes were crowned, and new icons discovered.
While anyone of these moments could have made our list, after much consideration and debate, we’ve put together our list of some of our Stand Out Moments from the Tokyo Paralympics. Let us know which stood out to you in the comments below.
The Unbeatable Mr Smyth
Jason Smyth is the fastest Paralympian in the world. The 34-year-old Irish sprinter competes in the T- 13 category (for athletes with a visual impairment). The World Record holder in the T13 100 and 200 metres, Smyth has never been beaten in any major Paralympic competition and now boast a fine collection of 21 major Paralympic medals (naturally, all gold). Such is his dominance in his event, Smyth even represented Ireland in the Open European Championships, narrowly missing out on a place in the final, when he finished fourth in his semi final heat.
Comparisons to the greats are more than apt when talking about this athlete. He has been likened to Usain Bolt on more than one occasion, the International Paralympic Committee described him as “the fastest para-athlete of all time” on their website, and Britain’s BBC described him as “the world’s fastest ever Paralympian”.
His defence of his T13 100m title in Tokyo by the narrowest of margins (just 0.01 ahead of Algeria’s Skander Djamil Athmani) was without doubt one of the most exciting moments of the entire Paralympic games. While Jason was greeted to a heroes welcome back home, only one question remains for us … How long can Mr Smyth remain unbeaten?
Dame Sarah Storey has been an icon of the Paralympics since Barcelona 1992, where she claimed 6 medals (2 gold, 3 silver and a bronze) competing in swimming disciplines. After swapping flippers for cleats in 2004, and making a fulltime move into cycling, Sarah’s reign of glory continued. She won no less than 9 gold medals between Beijing (2008) and Rio (2016) and was entirely unbeaten in Olympic cycling competitions both on the road and the track.
There was, therefore, no lack of pressure on the shoulders of this giant of disability sport, heading into the long-awaited Tokyo games. The games started well for the 43-year-old athlete, as she claimed gold in the Individual Pursuit and then the Time-Trial to equal the record of 16 golds set by swimmer, Mike Kenney, back in 1988. She then successfully defended the women’s C4-5 road race, a title she has held since London 2012, to become Britain’s most successful Paralympian of all time.
“I’m a bit overwhelmed, I feel like it’s happening to someone else,”
Sarah has been a friend and inspiration to us all in the Sports Tours International Group (of which Sports Travel International is a part) for many years. It has been a pleasure watching her continued success and inspiring journey unfold. 8 Olympic Games, 28 Medals, 17 Golds. 29 years of pure class.
A Pause for Paralympic Spirit.
It is fair to say that the T1-2 time-trial was a tough race. Horrendous weather conditions, on a tough course in the notorious Tokyo humidity had taken their toll on Australia’s Stuart Jones. He was then unfortunate enough to suffer a slipped chain in the final straight which saw the 52-year-old medal hopeful plummet to 9th place as he neared the finish line.
Then, putting his own disappointment to one side, Jones slowed even further. There is so much more to the Paralympics then just winning medals, and that is the thought that clearly occurred to Jones when he slowed down, turned, and encouraged South Africa’s Toni Mould, who was suffering, a lap off the pace, in a different race.
They were from different teams, and competing in different races, but It was Paralympic spirit that won the day as Jones cheered on his fellow athlete, who was the most severely impaired athlete in her race.
“Look, I wasn’t going to podium. That lady, Toni from South Africa, that is a true champion. That’s what the Paralympics are about.”
Brad Snyder was a lieutenant in the US Navy. He served in Afghanistan as an explosive ordnance disposal officer. In September 2011, he stepped on an IED while attempting to help victims of another bombing. The blast resulted in lacerations to his face, a shattered eardrum, and the loss of both his eyes.
Snyder has spoken at length about readjusting after his life changing injuries.
“When you’re kind of patching your life back together and figuring out how to adjust to blindness, you’re not good at anything. Walking was a challenge. Cooking’s a challenge. Dressing and colour matching is a challenge. There are all these things that used to be no problem that are all of a sudden really challenging. I had a hard time getting the right amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush, because I can’t see it.”
However, the American swimmer has never backed down form a challenge and has gone from strength to strength in his Paralympic career since his debut in London 2021 (2 x gold medal, 1 x silver).
At Tokyo 2020, Snyder had a new goal in mind, as he lined up for his debut in Paratriathlon, in the PTVI category.
In Tokyo, Brad made history once again. He claimed the gold medal, in a time of 1:01:16, almost a minute ahead of his closest rival, Héctor Catalá Laparra of Spain. It was the first triathlon medal of any colour, in either the Olympic or Paralympic Games for team USA.
There was a lot of pressure on Ireland’s ‘Medal Machines’ Katie George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal heading into the Tokyo 2020 Games. The tandem cycling pair have been amongst the most successful Para Athletes ever to have represented Ireland, having medalled consistently at World and Paralympic Games since 2014. At the 2016 Paralympic Games they achieved 2 medals. Gold in the Time Trial and in the Road Race, a silver. The question was could they go any better in 2021?
The answer was an emphatic yes. After finishing in 6th place in the 1000m Time Trial, the pair went from strength to strength, claiming silver in the 3k Pursuit, and then the top position in both the Time Trial and the Road Race. Their stunning performance has left the pair with no less than 5 Paralympic medals each!
“The road race is my favourite and I’ve always wanted to win that at the Paralympics,”
Said Dunlevy to RTÉ, after the race.
“In London, I was fifth in the road race, and then I got silver in Rio. To win it in Tokyo is a dream come true.”
Overall, the 2020 Paralympics offered an incredible fortnight of entertainment and success for Irish sport. Just in case you missed anything, here’s the full list of Irish Medal winners from the 2020 Paralympic Games.
Ellen Keane, Swimming, Women’s 100 metre breaststroke SB8, 26 August
Jason Smyth, Athletics, Men’s 100 metres T13, 29 August
Katie-George Dunlevy/ Eve McCrystal, Cycling, Women’s road time trial B, 31 August
Katie-George Dunlevy/ Eve McCrystal, Cycling, Women’s road race B, 3 September
Katie-George Dunlevy/ Eve McCrystal, Cycling, Women’s individual pursuit B, 28 August
Nicole Turner, Swimming, Women’s 50 metre butterfly S6, 30 August
Gary O’Reilly, Cycling, Men’s road time trial H5, 31 August