From the moment the flame entered the stadium in London, England on 29th August, till today, 5th September, the Paralympics’ athletes have been showing the world that a disability is simply an obstacle to overcome. Whether their disability is physical, mental, or both, the athletes of the Paralympics are the ultimate example of perseverance and heart.
Argentine athletes are no exception. In just four days the team has managed to rack up as many medals as the Argentine Olympic team’s total of four. With three bronze and one silver, the decorated athletes have lifted Argentina up to 54th place in the medal count. Now the only colour missing is the ever-elusive gold. But with four and a half days left filled with athletic events there is still plenty of time for the men and women proudly wearing the blue and white to earn some hardware.
So here’s a look back at what went so well in the first half and a look forward to what you can expect in the remaining days of the London 2012 Paralympics.
Argentina’s First Medal
The first athlete to step onto the podium for Argentina at the London 2012 Paralympics was Rodrigo Fernandez Lopez.
Just two days into the Paralympics the cyclist donning the blue and white pedaled his way to a bronze medal by defeating Germany’s Michael Teuber in men’s track cycling individual C1 pursuit on 31st August.
The 33-year-old from Entre Rios finished with a time of four min and seven seconds, the athletes who competed in the gold medal sprint finished with times around the four-minute mark.
The bronze is the second Paralympics medal for Lopez who has cerebral palsy. He won bronze in Athens in 2004, for the men’s bicycle road race time trial C3.
The individual pursuit is a track cycling event in which two athletes start from stationary positions on opposite sides of the Velodrome. The athletes start at the same time and race around the oval track to finish cycling four kilometres in the fastest time. However, if one of the athletes catches up to the other athlete they are automatically crowned the champion. This makes the event an exciting spectacle as the athletes circle around the track trying to catch up to each other.
The classification system for cycling is broken down to event and number. In this case the “c” indicates cycling and the number represents the severity of the disability. One is allocated for athletes with the most sever activity limitation.
Lopez returns to the bike to compete in the road race on 6th September.
Piling on the Hardware
The second and third of Argentina’s medals came just hours after its first in men’s 81kg and 90kg judo. Jose Effron grabbed Argentina’s first silver medal after losing to the Ukraine’s Olexandr Kosinov in the men’s 81kj judo final. Kosinov defeated Effron with a score of 0122-0112.
Judo, meaning “gentle way” in Japanese is a sport where the object is to throw down or take down your opponent. Scoring is such that when an opponent is thrown onto his back in a position where he cannot move the athlete scores an ippon and wins the match. A lesser throw that puts the opponent on his back but does not immobilize him scores a waza-ari. Finally, a throw that places an opponent on his side is given a yuko. Kosinov earned one waza-ari and two yukos to Effron’s one waza-ari and one yuko.
In the Paralympics, Judo is reserved for athletes with varying degrees of visual impairment.
Argentina was also successful in the men’s 90kg Judo with Jorge Lencina’s bronze medal. Lencina defeated Hani Asakereh of the Islamic Republic of Iran 100-0001, Lencina scored an Ippon automatically winning the bout.
The event is organized so there are two bronze medal winners. Lencina shared the third place spot on the podium with Dartanyon Crockett of the United States of America.
The fourth and most recent medal was awarded to Nadia Baez in women’s swimming 100m breaststroke SB11. Baez earned the first medal for the swimming team and beat her Pan-American record with a finishing time of 1:31.21.
The blind 23-year-old athlete, who was runner up in the 2010 World Cup, secured her victory just 50 metres into the swim when the three podium athletes broke away from the rest of the heat. Baez finished almost four seconds ahead of the next best swimmer.
Baez competed in the SB11 category of swimming. The categories go from 11-13 with 11 indicating a complete or nearly complete loss of vision. To level the pool however, all athletes in the SB11 category compete in blackened goggles. The swimmers rely on the assistance of “tappers”, the trainers who signal athletes when they are reaching the end of the pool and must execute a turn.
Baez came in third place behind Sweden’s Maja Reichard and Ukraine’s Yana Berezhna.
One of Argentina’s strongest medal hopefuls Los Murcielagos, the Argentine blind football team, has one of their biggest games coming up tomorrow, 6th September at 11:45 am local time, in the 5 vs 5 football semifinals.
Los Murcielagos, or “the Bats” will be going up against the mighty Brazil who are the back-to-back Paralympics gold medalists in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.
Brazil comes into the knock out round with two wins and one tie. They breezed through the game against Turkey beating them 4-0 but were stumped when it came to the European Champion, France and tied 0-0. They’re second win came against China 1-0.
Argentina comes into the game with one win and two ties. They beat Iran 2-0 but couldn’t find the back of the net against both Great Britain and Spain. Brazil will be their biggest challenge yet but if they make it through to the championship game they will be guaranteed a medal. Los Murcielagos already have an impressive trophy case with a silver in Sydney in 2000 and a bronze in Beijing in 2008, now all they need is the gold to complete the set.
In other Paralympic action Gabriel Copola and Fernando Eberhardt pick up their paddles today, 5th September at 12:30 pm local time, in the men’s class 3 table tennis quarterfinals. The Argentine team will be taking on the duo from Germany.
Team matches consist of four singles matches and one doubles match, each played over the best of five games. Each team consists of either two, three, or four players and matches end when a team has won three individual games.
The team events are run in a knockout format. Players and teams progress through the draw until the finals. The winners of the semi-finals play in the gold medal match and the losers of the semi-finals compete for the bronze medal.
Classes 1-5 indicate athletes who compete in a wheelchair.
Korea takes on Austria while Spain and France square off to determine who makes it through to the semi-finals. There the three teams to advance will join China, who have already made it through.
Athletics also have yet to take place in which there are numerous medal potentials for Argentina. Hernán Barreto is one of those golden hopefuls. Barreto won gold in both the men’s 100m and 200m at the Para Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the T35 category, T35 is for athletes with cerebral palsy.
According to the International Paralympic Committee he was ranked number three in the world in 2011 in the men’s 100m. His biggest competition will come from China’s Xinhan Fu and Russia’s Teboho Mokgalagadi, who are ranked number one and two in the world and were Beijing’s silver and bronze medalists. Barreto takes to the starting blocks today, 5th September at 5:55 pm local time.
Yanina Martínez and Naudia Schaus are also hoping to step onto the podium at the London Paralympics. The women had a one, two finish in both the women’s 100 and 200m T36 in Mexico. T36 is also for athletes with cerebral palsy. They are currently ranked number three and four in the world for the 100 and 200m and are hoping to earn some hardware for Argentina. The women start with the 100m sprint on 6th September at 6:26 am local time.
For a complete list of when Argentina’s Paralympic athletes compete please visit our events calendar online.