Andrew Small was cautiously confident about his Paralympic chances but he delivered in style with a men’s 100m T33 gold that headlined a double British medal success in the race.
Small, who was inspired to taking up the sport watching David Weir and Hannah Cockroft at London 2012, was a bronze medallist in Rio.
And he upgraded that brilliantly in Tokyo, a flying start meaning he edged out fast-finishing defending champion, Kuwait’s Ahmad Almutairi, on the line by 0.1s.
ParalympicsGB team-mate Harri Jenkins claimed bronze on his Games debut, with James Freeman in fourth.
“This is the combination of a lot of hard struggles and it means so much,” said Small.
“I think back to all those cold evenings in the garage during the pandemic, training on the rollers on Zoom and not being able to hear anyone because of microphone troubles, this makes it worth it.
“It’s just wonderful to have five years’ worth of hard work pay off.”
Jenkins, at his first major Games, wore a wide smile as he crossed the line – not because of his bronze but because of a realisation of what he could do in the future.
“I was thinking about three years’ time and what I could do, that really excites me,” he said.
“It feels good to get a bronze medal at my first Games. I thought I could get bigger medal but I sort of messed up my race from 60 metres onwards.”
Six-time Paralympic champion David Weir clocked 2:55.84 to qualify for the men’s 1500m T54 final, where his long-time Swiss rival Marcel Hug looks the one to beat after lowering the Paralympic record.
He’ll be joined by team-mate Daniel Sidbury, who recorded a 2:56.26 personal best, but Richard Chiassaro missed out despite a season’s best.
“I knew it would be quick because I had the same heat as the 5k with the two fastest guys in the world, I just knew I had to be in the right position,” said Weir. “I sat on Marcel’s wheel and he is in supreme form.”
World bronze medallist Shaun Burrows came through his men’s 400m T38 heat in second place while Ben Rowlings, in the men’s 100m T34 final, finished ninth, with his main target the 800m later in the championships.
“I’m not happy with how I started the race, technically it wasn’t the best. I needed to be with the guys at the start,” said Rowlings.
“The class has got really strong over the last few years so I know I’ve got work to do on the 100m.”
And there was a medal near miss for Kyron Duke in the men’s shot put F41, his best throw of 12.29m meant fourth position – to follow his fifth places at London 2012 and Rio 2016 – as Uzbekistan’s Bobirjon Omonov took gold.
“It didn’t really go to plan. I started to build over the last two throws so it came too late. I’ve been working with a new coach for the last nine months so it is still early days,” he said.
“I know what this competition is all about. I’ve been here twice before, this is my third Games so I did think perhaps it’d be third time lucky.”