Taekwondo makes Paralympic debut as Storey pedals to glory

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Tokyo

Afghan athlete Zakia Khudadadi, who escaped Kabul after the Taliban takeover, competed in taekwondo’s Paralympic debut in Tokyo on Thursday, as cycling queen Sarah Storey became Britain’s most successful Paralympian ever.

In the final days before Sunday’s closing ceremony, Morocco prepared to take on five-a-side Goliaths Brazil in the semi-finals, and romance was in the air in the Olympic Stadium with a surprise post-race proposal.

Khudadadi, one of two Afghanistan team members evacuated from the country, fought in the Paralympics’ first-ever taekwondo match, a day after badminton made its long-awaited first appearance.

She looked stoic ahead of her bout against Uzbekistan’s Ziyodakhon Isakova, emerging from behind a curtain to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”.

She lost the match but re-emerged for the evening repechage round, where she gave six-time world champion Viktoriia Marchuk of Ukraine a serious fright before bowing out 48-34.

“Of course I have worries and concerns about the situation in Afghanistan right now — I’m very glad that my opponent managed to come and compete with me,” said Marchuk.

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,” 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.—AFP

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