Muraoka wins gold, Morii grabs bronze on Day 1 of Beijing Paralympics

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Momoka Muraoka reacts after winning gold in the women’s downhill sitting race at the Beijing Winter Paralympics on Saturday.

BEIJING — Alpine skier Momoka Muraoka won gold in the sitting category of the women’s downhill on Saturday, becoming the first Japanese medalist at the Beijing Paralympic Winter Games, which opened Friday.

Muraoka, who has five career medals including a gold in the giant slalom sitting category at the 2018 Pyeongchang Paralympics, clocked 1 minute 29.77 seconds in the downhill.

Anna-Lena Forster of Germany grabbed silver and China’s Liu Sitong secured bronze.

The 25-year-old Muraoka serves as captain of the Japanese team at the Beijing Paralympics and is a two-sport athlete, competing at both the Summer and Winter Games.

At the Tokyo Games last year, Muraoka finished sixth in the women’s 100-meter wheelchair race.

Later on Saturday Taiki Morii won the bronze medal in the men’s downhill sitting event, giving him a medal at five consecutive Paralympics and six overall.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Taiki Morii celebrates after earning the bronze medal in the men’s sitting downhill on Saturday.

Corey Peters of New Zealand won the gold and Norwegian Jesper Pedersen took the silver at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre.

The 41-year-old Morii will get a shot an elusive gold medal when he competes in the four other disciplines over the next seven days. He has silver medals in either the giant slalom, super giant slalom or downhill from each of the past four Paralympics.

His next race is Sunday’s super giant slalom.

Russian backdrop at opening ceremony

The opening ceremony of the Beijing Paralympic was held on Friday.

Amid the continuing conflict in Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee had initially planned to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus, which supports Russia’s aggression, to compete at the Games.

However, because of mounting criticism from athletes from other countries, the IPC reversed its decision on Thursday, announcing that athletes from the two countries would not be allowed to compete at the Beijing Games.

A total of 20 Ukrainian athletes were set to compete in the event.

The Beijing Paralympic Games, which run through March 13, will be the largest in history, with about 600 athletes from 46 countries and regions participating. The competition features 78 events in six sports. Japan has 29 athletes scheduled to compete in four sports.