The Yomiuri Shimbun RIO DE JANEIRO — Mayumi Narita, 46, swam to a fifth-place finish in the finals of the women’s 50-meter backstroke in the S5 category for those with mobility disorders at the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics on Friday.
Narita, who belongs to the Yokohama Sakura Swimming School, is legendary among Japanese Paralympic athletes for blazing a trail for athletes with disabilities competing at the Games.
She has once again excited spectators with a remarkable achievement.
During the preliminary round of the 50-meter backstroke on Friday morning, Narita set a new Asian record of 46.74 seconds, more than two seconds faster than her previous personal best. This qualified her for the final with the third-best time of the round.
“I was really surprised by the record. I kept checking the scoreboard over and over. I was so surprised that I even felt a little embarrassed,” Narita said.
In the final, she finished fifth with a time of 47.63 seconds. Just 45 minutes later, she swam as the anchor in the final of the women’s 400-meter medley relay, demonstrating tremendous stamina.
At 13, Narita suffered a case of myelitis, or inflammation of the spinal cord, which paralyzed her lower body.
She participated in the Paralympics for the first time at the 1996 Atlanta Games, winning two gold medals.
Since then, she has earned six gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Games and seven golds at the 2004 Athens Games. She also participated in the 2008 Beijing Games before retiring as a Paralympic athlete.
While serving as an executive board member of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, she again became a Paralympian in June last year after a seven-year hiatus, aiming to boost the enthusiasm of Japanese Paralympic athletes.
In the athletes’ village, Narita told younger athletes, “If you can establish personal records, it is no different from winning a gold medal.”