TOKYO - China starred at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Monday with a sensational display in the men’s 50m backstroke S5 event as they won gold, silver and bronze and recorded a new world record through gold medalist Zheng Tao.
World record-breaking Zheng claimed gold in a time of 31.42 seconds ahead of teammates Ruan Jingsong and Wang Lichao as China led the way in the pool with a field-crushing performance.
Zheng, whose 2016 Paralympic Games performance in Rio de Janeiro provided the inspiration for the 2019 novel ‘Murene’ by French writer Valentine Goby, smashed the world record as he rushed to gold on Monday evening to leave the plentiful volume of delegations and media in awe as China followed up with silver and bronze for a remarkable treble in the pool.
As the stadium announcer hailed the Chinese team’s performance over the live public announcing system, the rows of photographers snapped away in a frenzy while Tokyo 2020 Paralympics mascot Someity soaked up the riveting action from the photo tribune.
“I didn’t expect (to record) such a good time,” said Zheng who became a three-time Paralympic champion having won the 100m backstroke S6 events in London 2012 and Rio 2016.
The 30-year-old from Kunming had the added bonus of seeing all three medals go to China and struggled to contain his emotions as he saw three Chinese flags raised to the rafters in Tatsumi, Japan.
The multiple-time world champion said: “To see that all three flags being raised are China’s, it’s something very emotional. Our country is strong, and we have great support. We help each other out on the team. Look at us, we have no hands, we need to lean on each other. It’s good.”
Zheng, who lost his arms due to an electric shock when he was a child, took up the sport in 2004 having been scouted by coach Zhang Honghu.
Silver medalist Ruan Jingsong, 24, also from Kunming, said: “I’m very happy, that’s all, and a little emotional. To be able to come away with a medal at my first Paralympic Games, and to see the Chinese flag being raised, it’s not bad (laughs).
“I was nervous before the race. I felt my heart racing and I was quite flustered.”
Bronze medalist Wang Lichao, 27, from Hangzhou, said: “I’ve achieved my dream of standing on the podium, and now I have a full set of medals. It’s a high in my career.
“Just one word, awesome,” said Wang about sharing the medal podium with his teammates.
China, the hosts of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in February, have been untouchable in swimming with a table-topping 38-medal haul including 13 golds, 12 silver and 13 bronze.
China leads the overall medal table at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics with a staggering return of 119 medals including 54 gold, 35 silver and 30 bronze medals.
The 10-day swimming competition concludes on Friday 3 September with the Paralympics set to close on Sunday 5 September.