Australia lead Paralympics medal tally

2 months ago 20
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Australia's Paralympians have delivered an incredible start to the Tokyo Games, raking in six gold medals, one silver and three bronze to lead the medal count after the first day of competition.

Cyclist Paige Greco kicked off the gold rush in the velodrome with the very first medal of the Games before compatriot Emily Petricola, who had already nabbed a world record, joined the party.

Emily Petricola (left) and Paige Greco of Team Australia celebrate their gold medals. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images) (Getty)

The swimmers took things a step further with four golds to William Martin, Lakeisha Patterson and best mates Ben Popham and Rowan Crothers who embraced on the pool deck.

"I always tell my friends and family at home to not stress at the 50 if I'm not leading, and I quietly backed myself to reel 'em in but it still feels incredible," Popham said, still in shock from both the men's S8 100m freestyle win and the weight of his gold medal.

"I'm not sure the emotion's going to set in for a while."

The winners were full of inspiring messages for young people with disabilities about the transformational power of sport.

Ben Popham of Team Australia celebrates winning gold in the men's S8 100m Freestyle. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images) (Getty)

"When I was really young, my disability was so severe and I started with swimming to help my cerebral palsy as that kind of therapy," Crothers said, after his men's S10 50m freestyle win.

"Back then, I hated it. I couldn't stand it."

"If it wasn't for discovering the Paralympics, I never would have even come close to this. 

"It's amazing to come up here and do this now and I've proved that I'm not just a person with a disability, I'm also an elite athlete."

Rowan Crothers of Team Australia reacts following his victory. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images) (Getty)

Petricola, fresh off a world record in qualifying, found her sport at a critical turning point in her life, kicking off a journey that ended with gold in the C4 3000m individual pursuit.

She said "words can't describe" how grateful she was to Olympic rowing silver medallist Matt Ryan for suggesting she take up cycling and push for Tokyo and five-time Olympic cyclist Shane Kelly for his help along the way.

"They've changed my life and they've saved my life," she said, before going on to thank her family and a long list of other supporters.

"Like, I was in such a dark place when Matt suggested this."

William Martin powers through the water on the way to Paralympic gold. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images) (Getty)

Australia's love affair with middle distance swimming then carried over from the Olympics to the Paralympics as William Martin and Lakeisha Patterson took out the men's and women's S9 400m freestyle.

Patterson looked gone with 15m to go but powered home over the top of Hungary's Zsofia Konkoly while Martin said he was just following his coach's instructions.

"He told me to jump into this race as a bit of an introduction to the meet," the 20-year-old said, standing side-by-side with bronze medal winning teammate Alexander Tuckfield.

"I went alright, I guess I'll just do what I'm told, see how things go, and yeah, here we are."

Patterson shows off her gold medal on the podium. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images) (Getty)

Patterson, who was no stranger to the Paralympic podium before Tokyo, said she was feeling "more fried than a chook from KFC" after the race.

"All I could do was attack it from the start and hold on," she said.

"It was such a good race by everyone. I knew I had it in me. I knew what I was capable of but to be able to finally put all the pieces together was really exciting. 

"It's been such a long, hard couple of years. So it's just really really nice — oh my god, I told my couch I wasn't going to cry."

Still in the pool, Paige Leonhardt claimed silver in the S14 women's butterfly, just a second ahead of teammate Ruby Storm in third. 

Benjamin James Hance finished third in the men's equivalent of the same race.

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