Gold for Nigeria as Ugandan teen makes history as youngest Paralympian in Tokyo


Latifat Tijani ensured that Nigeria were the first African country to feature on the Paralympic medal table by claiming powerlifting gold.

The 39-year-old just missed out on the top podium spot in Rio five years ago, but this time emerged as champion after lifting an impressive 107kg in the women’s -45kg category.

Tijani made her intentions clear by putting 105kg on the bar for her first lift, a decision which could have gone wrong for the Lagos hairdresser.

“It’s not that much weight, so I was not happy when I missed my first lift at 105kg,” she said after failing on her first attempt.

Tijani was successful on her second though and then managed 107kg on her third attempt. While she then tried and failed to lift 117kg, which would have been a Paralympic record, her previous effort was enough for the gold with China’s Zhe Cui taking silver with a 102kg lift and Justyna Kozdryk bronze with 101kg.

“I feel bad, because at home I was lifting 126, 127kg. You can see it on my phone. When I wasn’t able to lift 117 today it pained me,” she said afterwards.

As for converting her silver in Rio to gold in Tokyo, Tijani added: “I know that the Chinese lifters are very strong, but I promised myself that I would win my gold today. Ever since Rio 2016, when I took silver, that time I said that I would get the gold in Tokyo and I would collect it.”


Meanwhile, in the pool, Uganda’s Husnah Kukundakwe made her Paralympic debut on Thursday at the age of just 14. She may not have made it through to the SB8 100m breaststroke final, but the teenager from Kampala achieved a personal best of 1:34.35 and, as the youngest Paralympian competing in Tokyo, announced herself as a rising star of the future.

“I feel like I could touch the clouds. I am the youngest here and just seeing how the others are doing and just swimming with them is such an amazing experience,” she said afterwards.

“This is the start of my journey and I am just really excited to see how far I will go and how everything is going to be.”


Elsewhere, South Africa’s Theo Cogill once again found it tough going in his second match of the table tennis competition. The 34-year-old from Bonteheuwel went down 3-0 to Brazil’s Carlos Alberto Carbinatti Junior.

“It’s quite tough competing in these conditions. It’s the biggest stage so there are nerves and all. I think I didn’t get my momentum going. In the first and second set I had my chances. I was just struggling with the conditions in the hall but I tried my best,” he said afterwards.

Despite the result, Cogill’s coach Anver Lyners was immensely proud of his athlete making it to the Paralympics. “I think Theo is really an icon for the sport and for the place he comes from, Bonteheuwel. It proves to all the other youngsters that no matter where you come from, if your mind is set on achieving things or your goals in life, you can achieve it and nothing can stop you. Where he comes from shows the youngsters that there’s more to life than the way they’re living,” he said.

Another South African in action at her fifth Paralympics was Pippa Johnson-Dwyer on Just in Time in the dressage, grade IV individual test. The four-time Paralympic medallist finished eighth to qualify for the individual freestyle test with a score of 69.780.

“I’m thrilled. It’s a very new combination with her [Just in Time]. Unfortunately last year I got sick so it took out a lot of riding time. So I’ve only really been with her for two or three months but the feeling she gave me was unbelievable,” said Johnson-Dwyer who underwent open heart surgery last year, only for doctors to discover she had cancer.

“I had five weeks of radiation and chemo, and that took me out of riding for seven months.

“I think I really underestimated what chemo does to your body, but I’ve had the most exquisite team of people around me and everyone has done absolutely everything in their power to get me here tonight.”

*Courtesy: SuperSport




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