The Rio Paralympics hit its midpoint on Monday, with its Brazilian hosts overcoming budget issues to stage what has been a successful games so far, with higher-than-expected attendance and scores of records.
For those who are just tuning in, here are some eye-catching things about the global sports festival for people with disabilities.
Deepa Malik created history on Monday by becoming the first ever woman from India to win a medal at the Paralympics when she bagged a silver in the shotput F53 event. Deepa’s best throw of 4.61m from her six attempts was enough to clinch the silver medal. India now have three medals from the Paralympics.
Deepa is a paraplegic, paralysed from waist down and mother of two and wife of an Army officer. Besides shotput, Deepa has participated in javelin throw, swimming and has also been a motivational speaker. The 45-year-old is the oldest member of India’s Rio contingent and will receive a cash award of Rs 4 crore under Haryana Sports Scheme for her feat.
What makes Hamadtou a sensation is that he holds the racket between his teeth. While the Rio Games are full of stories of men and women who have trained their impaired bodies to compete at the highest level, Hamadtou, who lost both arms above the elbow in a childhood train accident, stands apart as the only table tennis player even to try the feat.
Although he lost in his Paralympic debut, falling to the highly rated British world number four, David Wetherill, and then to Germany’s Thomas Rau, the wiry 43-year-old said he was elated. “I’m just happy that I could come from Egypt to be here at the Paralympics and to play against a champion,” he told AFP. “I can’t express what my heart is feeling: I’m too happy.”
A variation of the able-bodied sport, sitting volleyball is played by people with various impairments who, sitting and sliding along the floor, volley over a nearly four-foot net. Height truly matters in this sport.
Ellie Simmonds became the first SM6 swimmer to finish under three minutes in the 200m medley. The 21-year-old – who has achondroplasia, or dwarfism – won her fifth Paralympic gold with a time of two minutes, 59.81 seconds.
Rodgers was born without a fully formed left leg and arm. She won three bronze medals at the 2012 London Paralympics - the 100m freestyle, the 400m freestyle and the 4x100m freestyle relay.
Rodgers combines her swimming career with a job as a Project Officer for the British Council.
Mariyappan Thangavelu, who won gold in the men’s high jump T42 final, opened India’s medal tally in Rio with a best jump of 1.89m. In doing so, he became India’s third gold medal winner in the Paralympics.
At age 5, Thangavelu’s right knee was crushed after a bus ran over his leg. His knack for the high jump was reportedly discovered when he was playing volleyball, his first love.
Nikita Howarth won bronze in the 50m butterfly S7 event. Howarth became New Zealand’s youngest ever paralympian when she was selected for the 2012 London Paralympics aged 13 years, eight months. Howarth has a congenital bilateral arm deficiency, with no right hand and her left arm ending below the elbow.
Kurt Fearnley is one of the most decorated paralympians, with 12 wheelchair racing medals to his name, the most recent a bronze in the men’s 1500m in Rio. The three-time Paralympic Gold Medallist has also won marathons all around the world, including the prestigious New York, London and Chicago marathons multiple times.
Laroslav Semenenko won bronze in the swimming 100m backstroke S6 event, despite not having any arms. In the heats, the 25-year-old Paralympian used just his legs to propel himself along the pool and completed the swim more than two seconds ahead of second place swimmer Sebastian Iwanow from Germany.