Japan’s Misato Michishita wins Paralympic gold in women’s T12 marathon

Japan’s Misato Michishita won the gold medal in the women’s T12 marathon in a Paralympic record time of 3 hours and 50 seconds for one of the host nation’s three marathon medals on Sunday, the final day of action at the Games.

The 44-year-old visually impaired runner was a gold-medal favorite in Tokyo after winning silver at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016 and achieving a three-peat at the London Marathon in 2019.

“We were all determined to complete unfinished business from five years ago,” said Michishita of her team, which includes guides Jun Shida and Yuka Aoyama.

“I’m very happy. I started with a conservative pace because I knew it would come down to the last half of the race. I feel like I was able to get here because I had the best guide runners and best teammates for these games,” she said.

Elena Pautova of the Russian Paralympic Committee crossed the line 3 minutes and 26 seconds later for silver and Louzanne Coetzee of South Africa took bronze in the final athletics event of the 13-day Tokyo Paralympics.

At around the 30 km mark, Shida noticed Pautova’s pace had slowed and he asked Michishita if she would be able to put on a spurt.

“She said yes, and I think that is what determined the outcome of the race,” Shida said.

Michishita went into the race as the world record holder in her T12 class, having set a new record of 2:54:13 in December. Coetzee rewrote the women’s marathon T11 world record with 3:11:13.

The Olympic marathon was moved to Sapporo to avoid Tokyo’s extreme heat in early August, but the five Paralympic marathon medal events remained in the Japanese capital, which was wet and cool on Sunday morning.

All five races followed the same course, which passed by major landmarks such as Zojoji Temple, Tokyo Tower and the Imperial Palace.

Earlier on Sunday, two Japanese won bronze medals in the men’s marathon.

In the men’s T12 class, Tadashi Horikoshi clocked a season-best 2:28:01 for bronze. Morocco’s El Amin Chentouf finished with a time of 2:21:43, a new Paralympic record, ahead of Australia’s Jaryd Clifford, to retain the marathon title he won in Rio.

In the men’s T46 marathon for runners with upper limb deficiency, China’s Li Chaoyan won in a Paralympic record 2:25:50, Brazil’s Alex Douglas Pires da Silva claimed silver and Japan’s Tsutomu Nagata took the final podium spot.

Japan’s best performance in the women’s T54 wheelchair marathon, won by Australia’s Madison de Rozario, was a fourth-place finish by Wakako Tsuchida.

Tsubasa Kina, who finished seventh in that race, said she was prepared for the rain and had tweaked her gloves and hand rims so she could get a better grip.

“It wasn’t as slippery as I expected,” she said.

Elsewhere, “Silver Bullet” Marcel Hug defended his men’s T54 marathon title for his fourth gold in Tokyo, after having won the 800, 1,500 and 5,000-meter events in the same category.

“(It was) a really difficult race, because I had some trouble with my push-rim, the rubber came off. But I made it. It’s incredible. For me and my career, it’s just amazing,” Hug said.

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