Hong Kong tops medals table

2004-09-19 13:58
Athens - Five world records on Sunday in preliminary swimming heats on day two of the Athens Paralympics hinted at a new era in sports for elite disabled athletes, performing at ever-higher levels and in increasing numbers.

Hong Kong racked up three gold and two silver medals - all in wheelchair fencing - on the first day of competition, but will be hard pressed to defend its position atop the medals table as swimming and athletics events get under way.

Historical powerhouses such as Australia, Britain and the United States are likely to dominate podiums. China, which came to Athens with a huge delegation, is also likely to strike multiple gold.

Starting on Sunday, a record 594 swimmers began contest 454 events over nine days, with China, Spain, Britain the US and Australia considered as favourites overall.

In Paralympic swimming, competitors are grouped according to their level of disability, and not necessarily the type of disability, so that an amputee with only one arm could, for example, compete against a swimmer with both arms but no or limited use of his legs.

Official classifiers determine in which categories athletes will compete ahead of the competition.

Men's and women's wheelchair basketball, one of the marquee sports of these Games, were also underway this weekend, with the US women bowing to Australia in a sharply contested preliminary match by a score of 62-61.

Following Hong Kong in the medals standings as of midday Sunday were Germany, with four medals (2 gold, 2 bronze), Britain with three (2 gold, 1 bronze), Australia with four (1 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze), and China with four (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze).


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