Australia’s Paige Greco claimed the first cycling gold medal of the Tokyo Paralympic Games, winning gold in the women’s C3 Individual Pursuit, over China’s Wang Xiaomei, with a new world record.
The 24 year old South Australian launched into the top level of the sport at the 2019 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in the Netherlands by setting three world records in two days. One of those was the C3 Individual Pursuit record, which was 4:00.206. However the reigning world champion in the event beat that time twice on Wednesday, once in qualifying and then in the gold medal final when she set a new mark of 3:50.815.
“I am just so happy, I can’t believe that we did it,” said a teary Greco immediately after the win in an interview with Australian broadcaster Channel Seven.
Denise Schindler of Germany won the competition for the bronze medal ahead of Clara Brown of the United States.
C class is for athletes with limb deficiency, impaired muscle power or range of motion and impairments affecting co-ordination, such as uncoordinated movements and involuntary movements and is subdivided into classes C1, C2, C3, C4 and C5 according to the severity of impairment.
Greco, who has cerebral palsy, had competed in the 100-200m sprint double in Para-athletic but changed her focus to cycling five years when pointed in that direction at a talent identification day. Now she will line up for Australia in both the track and road racing.
“When I started, I was all for doing just the 500m time trial and then my coach at the time said do the three kilometre and the road,” said Greco in a media release before the race. “So now I’m all for endurance and I love my long, long bike rides.”
Soon after Greco’s win Emily Petricola took another gold medal on the boards of the Izu Velodrome for Australia in the C4 Individual Pursuit final, which she won emphatically after setting a record time of 3:38.061 in qualifying. Shawn Morelli of the United States took silver while Keely Shaw of Canada secured bronze.
The other medal finals on the track Wednesday included the women’s C5 Individual Pursuit, where Great Britain’s Sarah Storey added another gold medal to her extensive collection, with compatriot Crystal Lane-Wright taking silver. Then it was the men’s B 4000 metre Individual Pursuit, where athletes with vision impairments compete on a tandem with a sighted pilot. Tristan Bangma of the Netherlands took gold, Stephen Bate of Great Britain silver and Marcin Polak of Poland bronze.
Competition on the track continues through to Saturday August 28. The road events commence on Tuesday August 31, beginning with the time trials and finishing with the final road races on Friday September 3.