A relatively lean day for Australia at the Paralympics extended all the way to the tennis as Dylan Alcott’s bid for a Tokyo tennis quad doubles gold medal fell short. Alcott and Heath Davidson won gold at Rio 2016, but they suffered a straight-sets loss to Dutch duo Sam Schroder and Niels Vink in a rain-affected match on Wednesday.
The winning duo represent generation next in wheelchair tennis: Vink is just 18 years old, Schroder 21. The 6-4, 6-3 defeat ensured Australia failed to win a gold medal for the entire day. Instead, Australia had to be content with two silvers and four bronzes.
Alcott and Davidson were gracious in defeat, hugging their jubilant opponents at the net. “We got pumped tonight,” Alcott said. “No excuses – no rain, no roof closure, no me being tired – they were better than us and they deserved it.
“Our level wasn’t there. Win, lose, or draw – Heath’s my best mate. Medals come and go, but that friendship stays forever. I’m gutted and I wanted to win gold, but I’m still so proud of Heath, and I know he’s proud of me.”
Alcott will have a chance to earn a slice of revenge when he takes on Schroder in the quad singles final on Thursday night. Although Australia did not win a gold medal on Wednesday, the foundation has been set for success in the coming days.
Ma Lin and Joel Coughlan came up trumps in the semi-finals of the men’s table tennis teams event to set up a gold medal match against China on Friday. The Australian women’s team featuring Lina Lei and Qian Yang also made the final, where they will take on Poland.
In the pool, Blake Cochrane has two gold and two silver Paralympic medals to his name, but says his bronze in Tokyo is the most special after almost retiring in 2020. Australia added four medals to its swimming tally on Wednesday night with Tim Hodge winning silver and Cochrane, Tiffany Thomas Kane and Thomas Gallagher all claiming bronze.
Cochrane finished third in the SB7 100m breaststroke behind Colombia’s Carlos Serrano Zarate and Russian Egor Efrosinin, with fellow Australian Jesse Aungles fourth. The 30-year-old won gold in the same race in London and silver in Beijing and Rio, while he also claimed gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay 34 points in 2012.
“There’s a lot of hard work and a lot of things that go behind the scenes of being an athlete,” Cochrane told the Seven Network. “It’s tough and it can be tough for the people that are in your life as well, it can be tough for them as well with all the sacrifices they make for you. So, out of all the medals I’ve won, this one probably means the most.”
Hodge fell just short of gold to Russian Andrei Kalina in a dramatic 200m individual medley SM9 final. The 20-year-old was the fastest qualifier and performed strongly in the butterfly leg before snaring a handy lead in the backstroke.
But Russian breaststroke star Kalina pulled ahead in that leg and Hodge was unable to catch him in the freestyle leg. “Going into that race I had my sights set on seeing if I could get the gold medal but I just tried to remind myself that any medal out of that race was a bonus,” said Hodge.
Thomas Kane had eyed gold in the women’s 100m breaststroke SB7 but Russian Maria Pavlova was the clear winner before US great Jessica Long outreached the Australian to take silver. The 20-year-old, who moved into the SB7 category after winning gold in the SB6 in Rio, ruptured her liver at the start of the year and her preparation was also hampered by Sydney’s Covid-19 outbreak.
“I was going into that race expecting something better,” said Thomas Kane. “But I think the year I’ve had and all the sacrifices I’ve made for this race, I’m happy with bringing home a medal. But I was definitely looking for more.”
Gallagher claimed his first medal just 10 months into his swimming career when he finished third behind Maksym Krypak (Ukraine) and Dutch swimmer Bas Takken in the men’s 400m freestyle S10. “I haven’t been around for too long, but the past 10 months have been crazy,” said Gallagher.
Daniel Michel claimed just Australia’s second boccia Paralympic medal – and the country’s first individual medal – with a 6-1 win over Great Britain’s Scott McCowan.
Michel, 26, and his ramp assistant Ashlee McClure claimed victory in the men’s BC3 individual bronze medal match. Australia’s only previous boccia medal came when Kris Bignall and Tu Huyhn claimed a mixed pairs C1 WAD bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
The Rollers will miss the podium for a second straight Paralympics after crashing out to Japan 61-55 in the quarter-finals of the men’s basketball. The Rollers trailed by 10 points early in the final quarter before launching a brave fightback that cut the margin to two points with more than six minutes remaining.
Australia had an opportunity to level the scores, but the missed chance proved costly as Japan pulled away to secure the six-point win and a maiden berth in the semi-finals.
The Rollers achieved podium finishes at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Paralympics, and boast two gold medals among their rich history. But they finished sixth at Rio, and will go away from Tokyo empty-handed as well.
And in goalball, Australia’s fairytale bid for a semi-final spot ended on Wednesday when they suffered a 10-6 loss to reigning Paralympic gold medallists Turkey. It was a brave performance for a team that entered Tokyo as rank underdogs, and the signs are good heading to Paris in 2024. Australian veterans Meica Horsburgh and Jennifer Blow choked back tears as they announced Tokyo would almost certainly be their last Paralympics.