German athletes won gold at the first-ever Paralympic triathlon and set a world record in the long jump. As the games continue in Rio, more events have been designed to bring out the best in the competitors.
Germany continued to impress at the Rio Paralympics on Sunday, standing 7th in the medal tally after setting records the day before.
Vanessa Low, the 26-year-old athlete from the northern town of Ratzeburg, not only secured gold in the long jump but smashed a world record in the process. Landing an impressive 4.93 meters (the previous record was 4.79) from her starting point, Low came out clearly ahead of her long-time rival, the Italian Martina Caironi, who took home silver with a 4.66 meter jump.
Low’s golden success is even more impressive given her journey to get to Rio. After losing her legs in a train accident at 15, the passionate sportswoman took up an interest in track and field events two years later. After finishing in a disappointing sixth place at her first Paralympics in London in 2012, Low decided to retire from professional sports. But a visit with fellow German athlete Kathrin Green a year later reignited her desire to compete, and on Saturday it all paid off.
Martin Schulz triathlon
The German men also made an impressive show of it the same day, with Leipzig sportsman Martin Schulz taking home triathlon gold the first time it was ever contested at the Paralympics. Indeed, so assured was his victory as he approached the finish line that the 26-year-old German slowed down and took in his surroundings before ending the race at 1:02:37, kissing the ground and crying.
“Ever since I was little, I wanted to be good at every sport,” Schulz told state broadcaster ARD of his decision to expand his career outside of competitive swimming, where he got his start.
Of his historic victory, a joyful Schulz said simply: “This is just unbelievable. I still can’t believe it.”
Horsey dancing with better music
The games continue on Sunday, and will feature dressage – the only equestrian event at the Paralympics, and one that has only been part of the games since 1996. One of the athletes-to-beat in this event is Britain’s Sophie Christiansen, who went home with two individual and one team gold medal in London in 2012.
Christiansen has been vocal about not only the lack of media interest in Paralympic sports, but particularly her event, dressage. Speaking with British news outlet The Telegraph, Christiansen complained that the music during dressage events was “a bit boring” – so much so that after mixing it up with Muse and Pink Floyd, she had her own music composed for her Rio routine.
The 28-year-old with cerebral palsy will likely prove a formidable opponent. Not only has she won 11 of the 12 major titles in her event since 2012, she has never lost a competition while working with her new horse, Athene.
In the same Telegraph interview, Christiansen criticized what she called the “vicious circle” between lack of spectators and media coverage that makes it difficult for the Paralympics and its athletes to get the same kind of recognition as their able-bodied counterparts.