Gabriel Bandeira, 21 years old, won Brazil’s first gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics, this Tuesday (25th) late afternoon in Japan, early morning in Brazil, on the first day of the event. The swimmer won the 100m butterfly class S14, dedicated to athletes with intellectual disabilities.
The Brazilian finished with 54s76 and set the new Paralympic record for the race, which is being disputed for the first time in the Paralympics. The silver went to the current world record holder, the British Reece Duun, with 55s12, while the bronze ended up with the Australian Benjamin James Hance, with 56s90.
Gabriel had already broken the Paralympic record for the 100m butterfly S14 in the second qualifying heat. However, in the sequence, Dunn surpassed the Brazilian’s mark in the third qualifying heat. When the two clashed, the Brazilian got the better of him.
In the decision, Gabriel turned the first 50 meters in second. He grew up in the second half of the race and even swam at the world record pace. Dunn approached the Brazilian in the final meters, but hit second.
Gabriel Bandeira is a new face in Paralympic swimming and is competing in Tokyo for only his second international competition. He was a swimmer at Minas Tênis Clube in conventional swimming when, last year, encouraged by his coach, he took tests that showed an intellectual disability. As a result, the São Paulo native from Indaiatuba became eligible for Paralympic swimming and changed clubs to Praia Clube, in Uberlândia, where he now lives and trains.
And the start of Gabriel’s Paralympic career has been overwhelming. In the first national competition, he broke four Brazilian records. In his international debut, in Portugal, this year, he won six European Championship races, always with a record in the Americas. In Tokyo he will swim five individual events (also 200m freestyle, 100m breaststroke, 100m backstroke and 200m medley) and the 4x100m freestyle relay.