Cheng He Fang has “Face Of Adversity” tattooed on her left arm, using it to constantly remind herself of the journey she’s been through. Today that journey had its brightest moment, as she stopped favourite Leani Ratri Oktila in the women’s singles SL4 final at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Oktila, who was in the quest for her second gold medal after winning the women’s doubles, and in the hunt for a three-gold sweep, was dominant for most of the opening game but blew her chances on the threshold of taking the lead. Although she did recover in the second, the physical effort had taken a toll and she struggled all through the deciding game, even as Cheng stayed strong. The 26-year-old from China clinched the gold with the 21-19 17-21 21-16 result.
“This tattoo is to remind myself to stay strong in the face of adversity,” Cheng said. “I’ve had a tough journey, but with the support of the Chinese team and coaches, I’ve made it this far. My balance isn’t too good, so that’s the hardest part on court.
“The key was to keep believing in myself. In our career meetings, I’ve won more than I’ve lost, so even when I was down I kept telling myself to believe that I can do it. I fought hard, one point at a time.”
Mazur Digs Deep
Frenchman Lucas Mazur had to dig deep against India’s Suhas Yathiraj in the men’s singles SL4 final. Mazur looked out of it early as Yathiraj cantered to a first-game win. Despite appearing fatigued and dragging himself between points, Mazur stayed sharp whenever the opportunity arose. He willed himself for a final push in the third after being down, but once he gained momentum Yathiraj faded away and the Frenchman took gold with the 15-21 21-17 21-15 victory.
“What a match today. I performed so well and I was waiting for a good opportunity today. I’ve been waiting so long time for this moment. Today, I was present, today I was the best and today I’m the Paralympic champion,” said Mazur.
“I went back to my memories and I was looking for strong moments, the love from my family and my coach and my friends. It helped me a lot. Today my win is for everybody.”
Indonesia’s Fredy Setiawan took bronze, beating India’s Tarun Dhillon in straight games.
In another absorbing final, in men’s singles Wheelchair WH2, Kim Jung Jun was thwarted by 19-year-old Japanese Daiki Kajiwara, who stopped the Korean great from claiming the only major title that he was still seeking in a glittering career.
Although the match was over in straight games, it went 49 minutes as Kim fought every inch of the way. Kajiwara was more consistent on the big points as he won the gold, 21-19 21-19.
Hong Kong China’s Chan Ho Yuen won bronze beating Korea’s Kim Kyung Hoon 24-22 21-10.
“I was always hoping to get the gold medal, and now that this dream has come true for me I’m super happy,” said Kajiwara.
Having beaten Kim Jung Jun, did this mean he was taking over the reins of WH2?
“I don’t know. I’m not expecting to be famous or anything. Now that I’ve won a Paralympic gold, I want to thank everyone who has supported me. I’m full of gratitude.”
Krishna Nagar Wins SH6 Gold
India’s Krishna Nagar overcame a spell of nerves in the third game to take SH6 gold over Hong Kong China’s Chu Man Kai 21-17 16-21 21-17.
Great Britain’s Krysten Coombs took bronze over Brazil’s Vito Tavares, 12-21 21-10 21-16.
“I’ve done it!” said Nagar. “The first thing I want to do is go home and gift this medal to my father, mother, uncle and aunt. They’ve all stood by me all these years.
“The pressure was hard to handle. That’s why I made some errors in the third game and he caught up with me. This is huge moment for Para badminton in India and I hope we will continue to get support from everybody.”
Chu Man Kai gave credit to his opponent: “I’m looking at a silver, feeling like it’s a gold. Everyone knows how strong my opponent is, and the stress was very intense. Look at his speed and technique, he is better than me. I don’t think I was in top form today, and I just wanted to enjoy the feeling of competition. No matter the result, I’ve got a silver at least, and that helps you relax in the match. So I really was just enjoying my time out there.”