Day 6: Games debutants light up the track

By Mousumi Mazumdar & Rebekah Thornton

It was an intense day on the Tracks for the T20 Men and Women 400m Heats. While the world was focused on the defending champion, Daniel Martins (BRA), the newcomers swooped in and amazed everyone with their spectacular performance in Heat-1.

Dieng Ndiaga (ITA), Anderson Alexander Colorado Mina (ECU), and Charles-Antoine Kouakou (FRA) ran their first-ever Paralympic Games race at Tokyo 2020. Qualifying first was Rodriguez Ramirez from Spain and clocked his personal best of 48.57sec. He was placed fifth at Rio 2016.

The defending champion had a hard time due to the global pandemic, speaking to Virtus, Daniel says “I suffered from COVID three months back and was almost taken to the hospital, one of my lungs was affected and I lost a lot of practice time.”

Heat-2, Correia Baessa (POR), Blango Columba (GBR), Luis Felipe Rodriguez Bolivar (VEN) made a remarkable first entrance into the Game and qualified for the finals.

In the Women’s 400m, only minutes after Yuliia Shuliar (UKR) broke the Paralympic Record in Heat 1, the Gold medalist from Rio 2016, Breanna Clark (USA) set a new Paralympic Record with 56.07sec.
“I have been doing three things, training hard, running hard, and working hard,” said Breanna.
“During the lockdown, we turned our home into a gym when the gyms closed and we also worked out on the beaches. My aim is to break these world records and set personal bests for everyone, not just for me.”

Siti Noor Iasah Mohamad Ariffin (MAS), the only female representing Malaysia in athletics at the Games, sprinted into the final of the Women’s T20 400m today. From Johor Bahru, the 31-year-old athlete said she was running for her son. She was so overcome with emotion post-race that she did not realize she had secured herself a spot in the final.
“I promised my son that Mumma would run as fast as I could. That race was for my son,” she said post-race.

Coming from a talented athletic family, her husband, Muhammad Hafiz Abu Bakar, represented Malaysia in the F37 Shot Put at the 2014 Asian Para Games in Korea. This will be her last competitive meet before her retirement, making her one to watch in the T20 400m final tomorrow night.

Tomorrow there will be several medal events taking place- F20 Men’s Shot put, T20 Men’s and Women’s 400m Finals and the 200m Individual Medley at the Aquatics.

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