Afghan Paralympians arrive as triathlon thriller begins Day 5 in Tokyo

Tokyo (AFP) –


Afghanistan's athletes arrived in Tokyo late Saturday and were set to compete in the Paralympics next week as Day 5 of Games action began Sunday with a thrilling finish to the women's triathlon.

And Italian fencing superstar Beatrice "Bebe" Vio goes for a second medal in the team event after her individual foil gold on Saturday.

Afghanistan's Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli were evacuated last weekend to France from the Taliban-controlled country in a "major global operation", the International Paralympic Committee said.

"Zakia and Hossain have continued to express their absolute desire to come and compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games," the committee's chief Andrew Parsons said in a statement.

They "are now in Tokyo to fulfil their dreams, sending out a strong message of hope to many others around the world", he added.

Khudadadi is due to compete in the women's taekwondo K44 -49kg category on September 2, and track athlete Rasouli is to run in the men's 400m T47 the next day.

In an early start for the para-triathletes at Odaiba Marine Park Sunday, American Kendall Gretsch chased down Australia's Lauren Parker on the final straight in the women's PTWC race to snatch the gold medal by the slimmest of margins.

It looked like Parker had the victory secure until she was hampered by backmarkers on the final lap, with the crucial seconds lost enabling Gretsch to reel her in to win by less than the length of her wheelchair.

"I couldn't see her in front of me until the very last lap of the run," said Gretsch. "Even halfway through that lap I couldn't see her.

"As soon as I saw her, I was like, 'Hey! You just have to do it. You have to give everything you can.'

"On that final stretch I just put my head down and that was all I could do."

Eva Maria Moral Pedrero of Spain took bronze.

- 'Gave it everything' -

"I gave it everything I could," said silver medallist Parker. "I put my head down and went for it. I'm pretty proud of my efforts."

In the men's race, Jetze Platz of the Netherlands won gold, ahead of Florian Brungraber of Austria and Giovanni Achenza of Italy.

In total there will be 63 finals contested on "Super Sunday" at the Paralympics with the wheelchair rugby gold-medal match one of the evening highlights and 20 finals being contested in the athletic stadium.

It promises explosive action, pitting the might of the USA team against Great Britain, who broke Japanese hearts by beating the hosts and 2018 World Champions 55-49 in the semi-finals.

The USA beat Australia, the 2016 Rio gold medallists, 49-42 in Saturday's other last-four encounter.

Fencing icon Vio had little time to celebrate Saturday night's individual foil gold.

She was back out on the piste in search of a second medal in the team event at 9.30 am on Sunday, leading Italy to a thumping 45-5 win over the USA in their first pool match. The medal matches will take place on Sunday evening.

In the swimming pool 13 more gold medals will be decided, with hosts Japan looking for success in the men's 100m breaststroke SB14 through Naohide Yamaguchi, the world record holder.