Youngest Paralympian swims for change as Lingling smashes world record


The youngest Paralympian in Tokyo took to the pool on Friday looking to change attitudes to disability, as more world records were smashed on the third day of competition.

In a reminder of the continuing risks posed by the pandemic, organisers said a Games participant had been hospitalised after testing positive for Covid, but insisted the event would remain safe.

China’s Guo Lingling won the women’s -41kg powerlifting, sending the world record tumbling and helping her country join Australia at the top of the medal table with six golds each.

“This is the first time I’ve participated in the Paralympic Games, so to break a world record and win this medal for China is very special for me,” said Guo, 32.

Spanish cyclist Alfonso Cabello also had the best time ever in the men’s C4 1000m time trial, adding to the nine world records beaten on Wednesday in track cycling and swimming.

The Games’ youngest Paral­ympian, 14-year-old Ugandan swimmer Husnah Kukundakwe, competed on Thursday morning in the 100m breaststroke in the SB8 category.

Kukundakwe, who was born without her right forearm and has an impairment to her left hand, did not make the final but said she felt she could “touch the clouds” after a personal best time.

She said she wants to change attitudes towards people with disabilities in Uganda, and give “these kids a chance”.

She is just months younger than fellow teenage swimmer Miyuki Yamada, who became Japan’s youngest ever Paralympic medallist on Wednesday.

Japan enjoyed a gold rush at the Olympics, finishing third after the US and China, and its record Paralympic delegation hope to do the same.

On Thursday Japan’s women’s wheelchair basketball team beat Great Britain 54-48 in the group stages, with player Mari Amimoto saying she was “a little surprised, because they were strong.”

Britain’s Paralympians found glory at the Izu Velodrome, however, with Jaco van Gass taking gold and his teammate Finlay Graham winning silver in the men’s C3 3,000m individual pursuit final.

Competitions are taking place mostly without spectators to minimise infection risks, and organisers have announced 184 Covid cases linked to the Games.

Tokyo 2020 said Thursday that a “stakeholder involved in the Games” has been hospitalised after testing positive for Covid-19.

Japanese media reported that the individual was not an athlete, and does not have severe symptoms.

Most of the cases at the Games are among staff and contractors living in Japan, which is facing a record Covid-19 wave, but Thursday’s 15 new cases included two athletes from overseas staying in the Paralympic Village.—AFP

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