It was a day of close finishes at the Paralympic Games. Kendall Gretsch and Daniel Romanchuk pulled off two of the most dramatic wins seen so far in Tokyo, while Team USA found itself on the other side of a close result in the wheelchair rugby final.
Here are the biggest stories from Day 5 of the Paralympics.
In an exciting gold medal match, Great Britain held off the United States 54-49 to claim its first-ever Paralympic gold medal in wheelchair rugby. The score remained close throughout the entire game and was tied in the fourth quarter, but then Jim Roberts (24 total tries) and Stuart Robinson (14 total tries) came through in the clutch with a series of late scores to put Great Britain ahead for good.
Josh Wheeler (21 tries) and Chuck Aoki (18 tries) led Team USA in scoring. For Aoki, the silver medal is the third of his Paralympic career, having previously won bronze in 2012 and silver in 2016. The U.S. wheelchair rugby team last won gold in 2008.
With Great Britain's win, Kylie Grimes became the first woman to ever win Paralympic gold in wheelchair rugby.
In the bronze medal match, Japan powered past two-time defending Paralympic champs Australia, 60-52, to win hardware on home soil. The match could prove to be the Paralympic farewell for 32-year-old Australian captain Ryley Batt, considered by many to be the greatest wheelchair rugby player ever. Batt debuted at the Paralympics in Athens 2004 as a 15-year-old and has three career Paralympic medals, including two gold.
In one of the most thrilling moments of the Tokyo Paralympics yet, Team USA’s Kendall Gretsch unleashed a spectacular sprint in the final stretch of the women’s wheelchair paratriathlon, overtaking Australia’s Lauren Parker just before the finish line.
Parker was quickest in the swimming leg and led for the entirety of the race apart from the final second. Gretsch was sixth after the swim, nearly three minutes behind Parker at the transition to the wheelchair bike leg. But Gretsch took chunk after chunk out of Parker’s lead through the final two legs, finally pulling the Aussie into her sights in the final lap of the run.
“As soon as I saw her, I was like, ‘Hey, you just have to do it.’ You have to give everything you can. On that final stretch I just put my head down and that was all I could do,” the 29-year-old Gretsch said.
With the win, Gretsch, who was born with spinal bifida, became the fifth American to win gold medals at both the summer and winter Paralympics. She is a two-time gold medalist in Nordic skiing.
Later, U.S. teammate Grace Norman won silver in the women’s paratriathlon S5 for her second Paralympic medal. She won gold in the event in 2016.
Track & Field
Kendall Gretsch wasn't the only American with an incredible title-winning surge on Sunday. Wheelchair racer Daniel Romanchuk pulled off his own come-from-behind win in the men's 400m T54 final. As the athletes rounded the final turn, Romanchuk was about a length and a half behind Thailand's Athiwat Paeng-Nuea. Then Romanchuk made his charge, overtaking the leader at the last possible moment and winning the race by just 0.01 seconds.
In the women's 800m T54 final, U.S. wheelchair racers Tatyana McFadden and Susannah Scaroni each won their second medal in as many days. This time the win went to Switzerland's Manuela Schaer, with McFadden taking silver and Scaroni, who won yesterday's 5000m race in convincing fashion, earning bronze.
Also earning medals on the track for Team USA were Raymond Martin, who won silver in the men's 1500m T52, and Noah Malone, who took silver in the men's 100m T12.
Meanwhile over in the field, Team USA's Roderick Townsend defended his high jump T47 title in style. Townsend outlasted the competition to claim his second consecutive gold medal in the event, but then he put on a show. With the win already in hand, he first cleared 2.12 meters to break the Paralympic record, then he raised the bar once more and cleared 2.15 meters to break his own world record. Fellow American Dallas Wise cleared 2.06 meters and tied India's Nishad Kumar for a silver medal.
In another medal event, American Jaleen Roberts won silver in the women's long jump T37.
In her first of five events, U.S. swimmer McKenzie Coan won gold in the women's 400m freestyle S7 final, defending her Paralympic title from 2016. Coan, who has brittle bone disease, is now a four-time Paralympic gold medalist. She'll have a busy week ahead with events coming up in four of the next five days.
At the end of the race, Coan was delighted to see that her teammate Julia Gaffney would be joining her on the podium. Gaffney, 21, took the bronze to earn her first-ever Paralympic medal.
In other races, Evan Austin (men's 400m freestyle S7) and Jamal Hill (men's 50m freestyle S9) also won bronze medals for the United States.
On Saturday, both U.S. wheelchair basketball teams suffered heartbreaking one-point losses. On Sunday, both teams bounced back in a big way.
First the U.S. men, led by Jake Williams (24 points, eight rebounds, seven assists), beat Australia 66-38 and improved their record to 3-1 in group play. Then the U.S. women trashed Algeria 62-21 behind 17-year-old Ixhelt Gonzalez's 14 points and nine rebounds. The men have one game left in the group stage, but the women's team has wrapped up group play with a 2-2 record and will play Canada in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.
The top seeds in the women's tournament will be Germany and China, which both finished 4-0 to win their respective groups. Germany kept up its dominance of Group A on Sunday, beating Japan 59-54. The 2016 silver medalists erased an eight-point Japanese lead in the fourth quarter with a 22-12 frame. Mareike Miller and Katharina Lang combined for 48 of Germany’s 59 points and 27 of its 38 rebounds.
For the third time in four runnings of the mixed coxed four at the Paralympics, the United States finished in the silver medal position. The U.S. got out to an early lead in the two-kilometer race, but were quickly overtaken by Great Britain, who finished first in 7:09.08 and completed a gold medal threepeat dating back to London 2012.
The Americans, led by Rio 2016 silver medalist Danielle Hansen, held off France to claim the second step of the podium. After the race, Charley Nordin unzipped his jacket and showed a "Justice for Oscar Grant" shirt as part of a podium demonstration.
Great Britain was also victorious in the mixed double sculls. Laurence Whiteley and Lauren Rowles successfully defended their gold medal from Rio in 8:38.99, nearly five seconds ahead of the Netherlands.
The men’s single skulls competition went to Ukraine’s Roman Polianskyi for the second straight Games, while Norway’s Birgit Skarstein took the women’s singles gold for her first Paralympic medal.
On the final day of judo competition, the U.S. got its first judo medal of the Tokyo Paralympics thanks to 28-year-old Ben Goodrich. Competing at his second Paralympic Games, Goodrich won his first two matches to book a spot in the final against Great Britain's Chris Skelley. Skelley defeated Goodrich in the gold medal match, but the American will leave Tokyo with a silver medal nevertheless.
Roxanne Trunnell, Rebecca Hart and Kate Shoemaker led the U.S. to a bronze medal in team dressage, giving Team USA its first-ever Paralympic medal in the event. It's the second medal at these Paralympics for Trunnell, who also won gold in the individual test earlier in the week. She'll have a chance at another medal on Monday when equestrian competition wraps up with the freestyle event.
Calahan Young scored eight goals to lead the U.S. men's team past Algeria 13-5 in its third game of group play. Team USA will play Lithuania on Monday in its final game of the group stage but is already assured of a spot in the quarterfinals.
Despite losing 8-3 to Brazil on Sunday, Japan has secured the top seed from men's Group A, the group that includes the United States. Although Japan and Brazil both finished the group stage with 3-1 records, Japan edged them out for the top spot thanks to a slightly better goal differential.