Tokyo Paralympics: Swimmer Sophie Pascoe makes history with 10th gold medal of career

Swimming icon Sophie Pascoe has set NZ Paralympic history, winning the 10th gold medal of her career over S9 100m freestyle at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

After winning her morning heat, but only with the third-fastest time of the field, Pascoe was drawn in lane three for the evening final, but gave her rivals little chance, leading by 0.64s at the 50m turn and holding off the fast finishers around her.

The Kiwi's time of 1m 02.37s was well off her own world record of 59.78s and the Paralympic record of 1m 00.91s set by American Michelle Konkolly at Rio de Janeiro five years ago, but the joy of victory was obvious, as she touched first and celebrated in tears.  

Spaniard Sarai Gascon closed over the final metres for second in 1m 02.77s, with fastest qualifier Mariana Ribeiro of Brazil third (1m 03.39s).

Her success brings New Zealand's medal tally at Tokyo to eight, including two more golds to fellow swimmer Tupou Neiufi and shot putter Lisa Adams.

While Pascoe, 28, a left-leg amputee, was already New Zealand's most prolific medallist at Paralympics, she became the first Kiwi to achieve 10 gold, along with seven silver and a bronze since Beijing 2008.

After struggling for motivation during COVID-19 lockdowns over the past 18 months, she appeared off the pace in her previous outings at Tokyo, finishing second over 100m breaststroke and third over 100m backstroke.

"This one's pretty special," she says. "I just followed the race plan to keep the stroke rate high.

"It obviously wasn't my best performance - like last night, which I wasn't happy about.

"The 100 free was full of amazing young ones coming through and I won't like, I was pretty nervous, knowing the depth of this class has grown so dramatically.

"Relief, just massive relief. All I could think was to just do it for the legacy, and the kids to remember my carer and what I've done."

Pascoe arrived at the start with gameface on, dressed completely in black to intimidate her opponents.

"We always say sometimes you can break them in the call-up room and have one less competitor drop off," she admits. "I feel like I definitely played the games I needed to in there."

Pascoe has two more events at Tokyo, lining up for 200m individual medley heats on Wednesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, track and field athlete William Stedman took a bronze medal from the T36 400m final, adding to his long jump silver.

Tuesday, August 31


Women's time trial - Anna Taylor (C4) did not finish

Women's time trial - Sarah Ellington (C2), 10th 30m 09.02s

Women’s time trial - Nicole Murray (C5), 6th 41m 45.50s

Women’s time trial - Eltje Malzbender (T1), 5th 44m 57.21s

Men’s time trial - Stephen Hills (T2), 8th 32m 26.36s

Men’s time trial - Rory Mead (H2), 5th 36m 53.78s


Women’s 100m freestyle heats - Sophie Pascoe (S9), 1st 1m 03.75s (progresses to final)

Women’s 100m freestyle final - Sophie Pascoe (S9), 1st 1m 02.37s (gold medal)


Men’s 400m final - William Stedman (T36), 3rd 54.75s (bronze medal)

Women’s 200m heats - Anna Steven (T64), 5th 28.60s (Oceania record, progresses to final)

Women’s 200m final - Anna Steven (T64), 8th 28.88s

Paralympic classifications

Each athlete is given a classification, depending on the severity of their impairment. Here is a brief summary of classifications for the NZ Paralympic team...


T36 = Track, cerebral palsy

T64 = Track, prosthetic leg


T1 = Tricycle, traumatic brain injury

T2 = Tricycle, brain injury

C2 = Bicycle, spinal injury

C4 = Bicycle, partial loss of power

C5 = Bicycle, limb deficiency

H2 = Handcycle, spinal injury


S9/SB9/SM10 = Swimming, leg deficiency below knee

In swimming, some impairments affect some strokes more than others, hence multiple classifications.

More to come