September 21, 2021

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Paralympics: The first gold medalists to win the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Paralympics: The first gold medalists to win the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

There will be 16 medals in swimming alone on Wednesday, while four golds each will be held in the cycling and in wheelchair fencing.

Australian swimmer Alexander Tockfield, after qualifying for the men’s 400m freestyle final on Wednesday afternoon in Japan, said the descent into the water after the long delay felt like “a weight lifted off my shoulders”.

“Just five years of training, coaching and coaching for this competition,” Tockfield said.

Wheelchair basketball and goalie also kicked off on Wednesday, with the Chinese women’s basketball team beating Algeria 74-25 and the Netherlands over Team USA 68-58.

Paralympics 2020 started with Colorful and festive opening ceremony Tuesday night, including a presentation of participating countries led by the six-member Paralympic Refugee Team. One volunteer carried the flag of Afghanistan in honor of Afghan athletes unable to compete in the Games after flights outside the country were canceled after the Taliban seized power.

“If the world describes you, now is the time to rename you: champion, champion, friend, colleague, role model, or just a human being,” International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons said Tuesday night.

“You are the best of humanity and the only one who can decide who and what you are.”

But not every country attended the opening ceremony: New Zealand’s Paralympic team did not participate due to concerns about the spread of Covid-19.

Japan has seen a record number of coronavirus cases in recent months, with more than 21,000 infections and 42 deaths reported nationwide on Tuesday.

Tokyo confirmed 4,220 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections in August to more than 100,000 — the first time it has reached a monthly tally of 100,000. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said last week that the situation was an emergency “at the level of a disaster.”

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According to the Prime Minister’s Office, just over 40% of Japan’s population was fully vaccinated as of August 22.

The Japanese government is set to decide, on Wednesday, to expand the state of emergency in Tokyo and 12 other regions to eight more prefectures, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Like the Olympics, the Paralympics are held almost entirely without spectators to limit the spread of the virus. At least eight Paralympic athletes have tested positive for Covid-19 since August 12 IPC, in addition to 33 individuals associated with the games.

CNN’s Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo contributed to this report.