The Roar
The Roar


Swimmers add to Australia's Para gold rush

Lakeisha Patterson. (Photo by Getty Images)
25th August, 2021

Lakeisha Patterson’s last-gasp gold medal on the opening night of the Paralympics has left the Australian swimmer “more fried than a chook from KFC”.

Australia leads the medal tally after day one with six gold medals, including four in the pool and two in track cycling.

Patterson held off a fierce challenge from Zsofia Konkoly – the Hungarian briefly took the lead on the last lap – to win the S9 400m freestyle final by just .08 of a second.

Will Martin broke the Paralympic record in the men’s S9 400m freestyle final and Rowan Crothers took out the S10 50m freestyle.

Then Ben Popham won the last event of the night, bursting into tears when his blistering finish gave him the S8 100m freestyle gold.

“Australia is having another mining boom – it’s a bit of a gold rush and I’m loving it,” he told Channel Seven.

Martin and Patterson won the first two swimming gold medals of the Games on Wednesday night at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

They emulated compatriots Paige Greco and Emily Petricola, who won the first two gold medals of the Tokyo Paralympics earlier at the Izu Velodrome.

Patterson, who has cerebral palsy, won the S8 400 freestyle at the Rio Games and has since been re-classified to the S9 category.


The 22-year-old made a fast start and rallied in the last few metres to beat Konkoly.

“All I could do was attack it from the start and hold on … I knew I had it in me,” she said.

“I’m feeling more fried than a chook from KFC right now.”

Patterson also paid a tearful tribute to mum Sherryn on her birthday.

“It’s really hard being away from Mum today, but this is for you,” she said.

Crowthers continued the chook theme, saying a training partner in Australia had promised him a chicken parmigiana and a ginger beer if he won.

“I can’t wait for that when I get home,” Crowthers said.

He clocked 23.21 seconds to take out the “splash and dash”, edging out Maksym Krypak of Ukraine by .12 of a second.


Martin stunned his rivals in the 400m freestyle, going out fast in the finals taking more than seven seconds off his heat time.

The 20-year-old Games debutant from Queensland won in a Games record time of four minutes 10.25 seconds, beating Ugo Didier of France by 1.08 seconds.

Sixteen-year-old Australian Alexander Tuckfield won the bronze and compatriot Brenden Hall, the world record holder, was a surprise fourth.

Patterson also took the early lead in her 400 final as six-time Australian gold medallist Ellie Cole dropped off the pace and finished fourth.

It came down to Patterson and Konkoly, who briefly took the lead on the last lap.

But Patterson rallied to touch the wall first in 4:36.68 seconds, just .08 of a second ahead of Konkoly.

Ben Hance won bronze in the S14 100m butterfly, while Paige Leonhardt took silver and Ruby Storm was third in their S14 100m butterfly final.

Ihar Boki, the Beast of Belarus, started his Tokyo campaign with gold in the S13 100m butterfley.


Boki won six golds at the Rio Games, the most of any competitor, and he now has 12 Paralympic gold.

Not everything went to plan for Australia on day one – the Steelers’ shock 54-53 loss to Denmark put an early dent in their quest for a third-straight wheelchair rugby gold medal.

Japan also dominated their women’s wheelchair basketball match against the Gliders, beating the Australian team 73-47.