As rain fell outside the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, it was also raining gold for the Australian swim team inside as they captured three individual gold medals and a bronze in the relay on the penultimate night of swimming.
Kicking off the night in sensational fashion, Brisbane’s Will Martin has made one of the finest Paralympic debuts in the pool with a huge world record to herald his third gold medal at Tokyo 2020.
The Nudgee College athlete who is coached by David Proud, bettered his own world record of 58.14 by almost one second, stopping the clock at 57.19 in the Men’s 100m Butterfly (S9). Remarkably, this feat sees hold three golds after scoring top spot on the dais in the 400m freestyle (S9) and 4x100m freestyle relay (34 points).
Martin led from the blocks, and although he admitted after the race to tiring late, his swim was good enough to slash 0.95 of a second off his previous record.
“Up until maybe the last 10 meters or so, that’s when I was really putting in, but everything before that felt really good in the water and it all went to plan,” the 20-year-old said.
“I want to thank Mum back home for getting me here. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here.”
Teammate Tim Hodge, after claiming a silver and bronze earlier in the meet, finished fifth in 1:01.03.
Fellow Queenslander and world record holder Rachel Watson defended her title in the Women’s 50m Freestyle (S4) despite finishing only fourth in her heat in the morning to be the fifth fastest qualifier for the final.
Swimming out in lane two, the 29-year-old Chandler captain mustered all her experience to rise to the occasion with a new Paralympic record time of 39.36, significantly faster than the 40.13 she swam to win in Rio de Janiero five years ago.
Watson, who wears glasses and finds it difficult to read the scoreboard, heard the good news from her fellow swimmer in the adjoining lane.
“It wasn’t until my competitor, the Italian, told me that I’d won that I knew I’d won because I can’t see the board. She told me and I didn’t believe her at first,” an emotional Watson said.
“I’m just really overwhelmed. I didn’t even think that was even possible.
“It’s been a really long five years and now to go back-to-back as a dual Paralympic gold medallist…I can’t even put it into words.”
Earlier in the evening, a composed and focussed Ben Hance blitzed the field to win gold in the Men’s 100m Backstroke (S14).
For the second time in Tokyo, Hance re-set the Paralympic record with a 57.73, only 0.17 outside the world record time he set the Australian Swimming Trials.
This achievement affords Hance the full set of medals from the Japanese capital.
“I’ve got all of them. I’ve got gold now, I’ve got the bronze and I’ve got the silver – it’s very nice” he said after finishing second with the 4x100 relay team and third in the 100m butterfly earlier in the meet.
In the final event of the night – the Women’s 4x100m Mixed Medley Relay (34 points) – Australia’s team of Ellie Cole, Keira Stephens, Emily Beecroft and Isabella Vincent – held strong to produced bronze. Amazingly, the medal marks Cole’s seventeenth which sees her leapfrog the legendary Priya Coopers tally of 16.
Starting the race with backstroke, Cole dived off the blocks first and put Australia in a strong position for Stephens to take over in the breaststroke leg. Pushing hard against competitors on either side of her lane, Stephens allowed Beecroft to remain in contention for the butterfly section. In the final leg, the youngest member of the Australian Paralympic team, Vincent, anchored her spot in freestyle and fought until the very end to secure the bronze.
In other results from the night, Col Pearse – who has already claimed a bronze medal in the 100m fly (S10) – gave it his all in the final of the Men’s 100m Backstroke (S10) to place eighth in a time of 1:04.41. The Games debutant finishes his program tomorrow, when he dives in for the Men’s 200m Individual Medley (S10).
Two gold caps took to the water in the Women’s 100m Backstroke (S14), with Madeleine McTernan and Ruby Storm taking flight in lanes six and one respectively. McTernan, who clocked a new personal best this morning, backed it up again to produce a time sub 1:10 for only the second time in her career. Posting 1:09.82, McTernan came fourth overall, while Storm placed eighth in 1:15.38. McTernan and Storm both return to Australia as silver medallists in the Mixed 4x100m Freestyle Relay (S14), while Storm also scored bronze in the Women’s 100m Butterfly (S14).
Young Bay and Basin swimmer, Jasmine Greenwood – who captured silver in the Women’s 100m Butterfly (S10) on Tuesday – dug deep in the Women’s 100m Backstroke (S10) to finish fourth in 1:10.34. This isn’t the last time the 16-year-old will grace the competition pool, with her final event, the 200m Individual Medley (SM10) taking place tomorrow.
Australia’s medal tally in the pool now stands at 32 including eight gold, nine silver and 15 bronze.
The final day of action from the Tokyo Aquatics Centre kicks off tomorrow morning with heats starting from 10am AEST.