Momoka Muraoka wins Japan’s first gold medal at the Beijing Games

Sit-skier Momoka Muraoka won the women’s alpine skiing event on Saturday to claim Japan’s first gold medal at the Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Muraoka finished in 1 minute 29.77 seconds to win her second career Paralympic gold medal and better than the silver she won in the sitting downhill four years ago.

The victory places her on the Paralympic podium for the sixth time in her career and marks a perfect start to her bid for five medals in China.

Japan’s Momoka Muraoka celebrates after winning the women’s gold medal in alpine sitting skiing at the Paralympic Games in Beijing on March 5, 2022. (Kyodo)

Muraoka, who said she felt extremely nervous ahead of the race, expressed her joy at being able to win a gold medal on the first day of competition in China.

“To be honest, winning a gold medal today made me feel more comfortable. I feel a bit better to race (in super-G) tomorrow,” she said.

“I was able to ski at my best today thanks to aggressive training,” she added.

Muraoka, who turned 25 on Thursday, competed in wheelchair racing at the Tokyo Paralympics last summer but has since resumed sit-skiing.

Germany’s Anna-Lena Forster, the woman tipped to be Muraoka’s main rival in various events at the National Alpine Skiing Center in Yanqing, finished with silver, 0.82 behind the Japanese.

Liu Sitong of China won bronze as the only other runner to complete the course, with four of the seven participants falling or missing a gate.

In the men’s seated downhill, the versatile Taiki Morii, who is aiming for his first Paralympic gold medal, won bronze.

Japan’s Taiki Morii celebrates after winning bronze in the men’s alpine sitting at the Paralympic Games in Beijing on March 5, 2022. (Kyodo)

“I’m very happy. I’m happy to receive any medal,” Morii said, adding that he was just happy he was able to complete the course.

“Today I was able to ski unrestrained in areas I had done in the past, so I feel more relieved than anything,” he said.

New Zealand’s Corey Peters won gold while Norway’s Jesper Pedersen won silver. Fellow Japanese competitors Akira Kano and Takeshi Suzuki finished seventh and eighth respectively.

Earlier Saturday in the women’s standing downhill event, Japanese skier Ammi Hondo finished sixth and her compatriot Noriko Kamiyama was eighth.

Hiraku Misawa placed 14th for Japan and Gakuta Koike 21st in the men’s standing downhill.

Related coverage:

Para-seated skier Muraoka aims to repeat 5-medal feat in Beijing

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