Australia’s Paralympic Games got underway in stunning fashion on the opening day of competition in Tokyo, with the first two gold medals on offer at these Games won inside a remarkable 15 minutes at the velodrome in Izu.
Paige Greco, who set a world record in qualifying for the women’s C3 individual 3000m pursuit final, then bettered her own benchmark against China’s Wang Xiaomei to claim the nation’s first medal.
Barely a quarter-of-an-hour later, teammate Emily Petricola, 41, made it a double with victory in the C-4 classification, having also broken the world record to reach the gold medal final.
So dominant was Petricola’s victory over rival and silver medallist Shawn Morelli, she lapped the American on her way to securing victory well before completing the 3,000m.
Petricola, who was diagnosed with MS at the age of 27, paid tribute to two-time Olympic rower Matt Ryan and Shane Kelly, the five-time Olympic cyclist, in an emotional post-race interview after the pair’s encouragement and support had helped her throughout her cycling career.
“Words can’t describe how grateful I am to Matt Ryan and Shane Kelly for what they did for me early on in the piece,” she told Channel Seven. “They’ve changed my life and they saved my life. I was in such a dark place when Matt suggested this.”
The Australians’ world records were among seven new benchmarks set on the opening day of cycling, and the two gold medals propelled the team to the top of the nascent medal table.
Greco, who has cerebral palsy, is making her Paralympic debut in Tokyo but she is used to pocketing gold medals – her first Paralympic gold and comes after she won three gold medals on the 2019 UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup circuit. The is also reigning world champion in the women’s time trial C3.
“Sorry,” she told Channel Seven through tears. “I’m just so happy. Can’t believe we did it. It was a good race. Yeah. I still can’t believe it. I can’t thank the team at AusCycling [enough], my coach, their support is amazing. My family and friends, wouldn’t be here without them.”
Compatriot Meg Lemon lost her C4 pursuit bronze medal ride-off to Canadian Shawn Keely.