Australia has taken Tokyo by storm, smashing out two gold medal victories in a perfect start to the 2020 Paralympics.
The only country to top the podium so far, it was a golden hour for Australia as the nation’s best cyclists won back-to-back victories.
Track cyclist Paige Greco broke her own world record in the C3 individual pursuit final, claiming the first gold medal of the Games.
The 24-year-old from Adelaide, who has cerebral palsy, easily beat China’s Wang Xiaomei in their gold medal ride-off at the Izu Velodrome.
“I’m so happy, I can’t believe we did it,” Greco told the Seven Network immediately following the win.
“I still can’t believe it”.
Greco, who had already broken her own world record during the trials, clocked three minutes 50.815 seconds in the final while adversary Wang rode 3:54.975.
She thanked her teammates, her coach, family and friends in an emotional post race interview.
Just a few minutes later, teammate Emily Petricola lapped American rival Shawn Morelli to win a glittering gold medal in the C4 3000m pursuit.
Petricola made a shaky start against Morelli and looked in trouble when she was .951 of a second down after the first lap.
But the 41-year-old from Queensland, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 14 years ago, then dominated their ride-off and caught Morelli well inside the last kilometre.
“I’m so surprised that just happened,” Petricola told the Seven Network.
The Paralympian took the opportunity to thank five-time Olympic cyclist Shane Kelly and Olympic rower Matt Ryan who encouraged her to go for gold.
“Words can’t describe how grateful I am to Matt Ryan and Shane Kelly for what they did for me early on in the piece. They’ve changed my life and they saved my life. I was in such a dark place when Matt suggested this.”
Petricola also broke her own world record when she qualified fastest in 3:38.061.
Compatriot Meg Lemon lost her C4 pursuit bronze medal ride-off to Canadian Shawn Keely.
Lemon trailled early against Keely and could not pull back the deficit, losing by more than a second.
All three Australians are making their Paralympic debuts while Greco and Petricola came into the Games as defending world champions in their individual pursuit categories.
The cycling finals are the first gold medals handed out at the Paralympics, meaning Greco and Petricola’s success propels Australia to the top of the standings.
Australia finished fifth overall at the past two Paralympic Games.