Even before Madison de Rozario breathtakingly held off Swiss world record holder Manuela Schaer after 42.2 kilometres of racing to win the Marathon T54 – Australia’s final gold medal of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games – the Australian Paralympic Team had produced perhaps the most courageous and successful campaign in the nation’s 61-year Games history.
Against unprecedented odds, not least the massive disruption caused by the Covid pandemic over nearly two years leading up to Tokyo 2020, Australia’s elite Para-athletes won 80 medals to finish sixth on the overall medal tally and 21 gold to come eighth on the gold medal count.
“I’m so incredibly proud of every member of this Team for what they’ve produced in the face of a lead-in to the Games that was more difficult than any Australian Team has experienced before,” Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin said.
“A lot gets spoken about the resilience and determination of Para-athletes. But I don’t think those qualities have ever been more clearly displayed than by this incredible Team over not just these two weeks here in Tokyo, but right throughout this five-year Games cycle.
“Congratulations to every one of our awesome Para-athletes. You have performed brilliantly on the world stage and carried yourselves with dignity and class, truly demonstrating the best of the Australian Paralympic movement.
“I’d also like to express my deep thanks to all the people who worked relentlessly over many months to put in place the very complex logistics that made this campaign possible.”
Paralympics Australia Chief Executive Lynne Anderson said: “Sending this Australian Team to the 2020 Paralympic Games was a colossal effort. It could not have been achieved without the incredible level of cooperation and teamwork we saw between so many people in Australia and Japan.
“On behalf of Paralympics Australia and our wonderful Para-athletes, I’d like to say an enormous thank you to the Japanese people for being such gracious and kind hosts to our Team and staff. We will forever be grateful that they delivered on their promise to hold an exceptional Paralympic Games.
“I’d also like to thank the Government of Japan, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and TOCOG for all their commitment to staging Tokyo 2020. Their dedication to ensuring a safe and successful Paralympic Games under such challenging circumstances will be long remembered and appreciated by all of us within Australia’s Paralympic movement.
“A sincere thank you also to the Australian Federal Government and various agencies for their guidance and support throughout this campaign. A special thank you, as well, to the Australian public, whose support from afar was never more needed and appreciated.
“I’m so proud of what we’ve collectively achieved, bringing joy to millions of people, showing that inclusion and diversity are strengths to be embraced and highlighting the very best of humanity.”
Australian competed in 18 of the 22 sports on the Tokyo 2020 program. There were numerous highlights.
- Australia finished with 33 medals, including eight gold, 10 silver and 15 bronze, four more medals overall than at Rio 2016.
- Four-time Paralympian Ellie Cole won two medals, taking her career tally to 17, surpassing Priya Cooper’s 16 medals and making Cole the most decorated Australian female Paralympian.
- Cole later announced Tokyo 2020 would be her final Paralympics. She was named by Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin as flagbearer for the Closing Ceremony.
- Games debutant Will Martin set two world records on his way to three gold and one silver medal.
- Two champions from Rio 2016 successfully defended their titles. Lakeisha Patterson won the Women’s 400m Freestyle (S9) and Rachael Watson produced a remarkable swim from lane two to win the Women’s 50m Freestyle (S4).
- The youngest member of the Australian Paralympic Team, 15-year-old Isabella Vincent, won a silver medal and a bronze medal, while the swimming Team’s most experienced member, five-time Paralympian Matt Levy, added two more medals to his tally.
- Best friends Rowan Crothers and Ben Popham collectively gathered four gold and two silver medals in freestyle and relay events.
In wheelchair tennis:
- Dylan Alcott successfully defended his quad singles gold medal from Rio 2016, with an emotional victory over Sam Schroder of the Netherlands in the final.
- Alcott’s 6-4 3-6 6-4 win over rising star, Dutchman Niels Vink, in the semi-final is regarded as one of the greatest matches of wheelchair tennis ever played.
- After winning the singles gold medal, Alcott announced his Paralympic career was over.
- Alcott and partner Heath Davidson won silver in the quad doubles, after winning gold at Rio 2016.
- Despite lacking elite competition after the 2019 World Championships, the Australian Para-athletics Team achieved two world records, six personal bests and 18 season bests. The team won four gold medals, up from three at Rio 2016, seven silver medals and eight bronze.
- After three Paralympics where she had won three silver and one bronze medal, Madison de Rozario broke through to win gold in the 800m T53 and the Marathon T54, as well as a bronze medal in the 1500m.
- Vanessa Low, who had won a gold medal and a silver medal for Germany at Rio 2016, set a long jump T63 world record to win gold for Australia.
- James Turner went from winning the 800m T36 at Rio 2016 to winning the 400m T36 at Tokyo 2020 after the 800m in his classification was discontinued. Turner also won a silver medal in the 100m T36.
- At his first Paralympics, Michal Burian broke the world record as he claimed a silver medal in the javelin F64.
- Jaryd Clifford won a medal in each of his three events, the Marathon (silver), 5000m (silver) and 1500m (bronze).
- Australia won six track cycling medals, including three gold, and seven road cycling medals, including one gold.
- All three gold medals on the track were won by women – Emily Petricola, Amanda Reid and Paige Greco – and all three were achieved with world record times.
- Reid became the first Indigenous Australian to win a cycling gold medal at the Paralympic Games when she won the 500m time trial C1-3.
In Para-table tennis:
- Of a team of 11 Para-table tennis players, six won medals.
- Australia emerged as a world power, winning two gold and four silver medals to finish second to China, far and away surpassing Australia’s previous best Games performance, one gold medal and three bronze at Tokyo in 1964.
- The gold medals to Li Na Lei (Individual C-9) and Qian Yang (Individual C-10) were our first since 1984. Qian’s 3-2 semi-final win over Polish legend Natalya Partyka was particularly memorable.
- Australia also won four silver medals, including in the women’s and men’s Class 9-10.
- Sam von Einem backed up his silver medal from Rio 2016 with silver in the Individual C11 class.
- Para-canoeing was introduced to the Paralympics program at Rio 2016, where Australia won one gold, one silver and one bronze. At Tokyo 2020, Australia improved its outcome with two gold medals and one silver medal.
- Curtis McGrath successfully defended his Men’s KL2 kayak crown. The following day, McGrath won the Men’s VL3 Va’a class, which was added to the program for Tokyo 2020.
- Susan Seipel, who won bronze in the KL2 in Rio, won the silver medal in the VL2.
- Australia won its first medal since the Atlanta Paralympics 25 years ago when Dan Michel, competing at his second Games, won bronze in the Mixed Individual BC3.
- It was Australia’s first individual medal in boccia.
- Our BC3 Mixed Pairs Team, consisting of Michel, Spencer Cotie and Jamieson Leeson, came within a whisker of qualifying for the knockout stages, going down to the world No.2 team from Hong Kong in a tie breaker.
- Australia’s women’s goalball team, the Aussie Belles, enjoyed their most successful Games, with two wins.
- The Team qualified for London 2012 and Rio 2016 but did not win a match at either Games.
- They started Tokyo 2020 an 11-1 loss to Israel and a 6-0 loss to China, but won their third game, against Canada, 4-3. It was Australia’s first victory since the 2-0 win over South Korea at Atlanta 1996.
- In the next game, the Belles scored the biggest win in their history when they defeated the reigning world champions representing Russian Paralympic Committee 4-1 to qualify for their first Paralympic Games quarter final.
- The Belles lost their quarter final against Turkey, who went on the win their second consecutive gold medal.
- After the match, Belles captain Meica Horsburgh announced her retirement.
- Janine Watson had the honour of becoming Australia’s first representative in the new Paralympic sport of Para-taekwondo and came away with the added honour of becoming our first medallist, winning bronze in the K44 +58kg class.
In wheelchair rugby:
- Australia’s nine-year reign as Paralympic champions ended when the Steelers finished fourth. They were beaten by Japan 60-52 in the bronze medal playoff.
- During the Steelers’ second game of the tournament, against France, Shae Graham became the first woman to represent Australia in wheelchair rugby.
- In the bronze medal match against Japan, Steelers captain Ryley Batt became the most capped wheelchair rugby player for Australia, with 313 appearances.
- During the tournament Chris Bond played his 200th match for Australia and Ben Fawcett played his 150th match.
- Erik Horrie cemented himself as Australia’s most successful Para-rower, with silver in the men’s single sculls, adding to his two silver medals from the two previous Games.
- For the first time, all three riders representing Australia placed in the top 10 of their respective grades.
- The first Australian Para-equestrian to compete at three Games, Sharon Jarvis, announced her retirement after competing in the Dressage Team Championship.
- Emma Booth’s horse Zidane became the first horse compete at two Paralympic Games.
- Australia’s two Para-badminton players at Tokyo 2020, Grant Manzoney and Caitlin Dransfield, lost their matches but became the nation’s first representatives in the sport, which was included on the Paralympic program for the first time.
- Despite losing his one bout, Wayne Phipps became our first Para-judo representative since 2008.
- World Champion in the PTWC, Lauren Parker, won the silver medal after being chased down by American Kendall Gretsch, who beat Parker by one second after more than one hour and six minutes of racing.
- Australia was represented by three shooters, though none advanced past the qualifying stages.
In wheelchair basketball:
- Australia’s men’s Team, The Rollers, improved on their sixth-place finish at Rio 2016, beating Turkey in their final match to secure fifth place.
- At the completion of the tournament Brett Stibners announced his retirement. Stibners competed at four Paralympics. He was part of the teams that won a gold medal in 2008 and silver medal in 2012.
- Australia’s women’s Team, The Gliders, won their final match of the tournament to finish ninth.
- Australia’s four-person Team was the largest since Sydney 2000.
- Jonathon Milne, Peter Marchant and Imalia Oktrininda each progressed the Round of 16 in their events.