She’s made winning such a habit in her career, it almost feels like a formality that when Sophie Pascoe enters a Paralympic swimming event, she’s coming away with a medal. That doesn’t make it any less impressive however, and our 2012 M2woman Woman of the Year added one more to her already staggering tally overnight, getting Team New Zealand off the mark Paralympic medal table in the process.
Pascoe entered her first final in Tokyo, the 200m Breaststroke SB8, already with the resume of one of the most decorated athletes in Paralympic history, with nine golds and 15 total medals already to her name. While breaststroke is Pascoe’s self-admitted weakest stroke (she has a only one Paralympic breaststroke gold, coming all the way back in Beijing 2008), the 28-year-old swimming superstar and Under Armour ambassador entered the event as a late-entry, revealing she wanted to use the event as a ‘warm-up’ to get her into the swing of things ahead of her more fancied events taking place later this week. When you’re as good as Pascoe, however, you’re a top contender even in your worst disciplines and in the end, Pascoe nearly shocked the world and pulled off yet another golden performance. However, she was forced to settle for silver, as she was pipped at the wall by Irishwoman Ellen Keane by just 0.39 seconds.
If she was disappointed to just miss out on another precious gold medal, Pascoe didn’t show it as she told reports she was “extremely ecstatic” with the result, explaining that the race had achieved its purpose of shaking off the ‘race rust’ in order to maximise her performance in her four main events. The Kiwi star dedicated the performance to her mother, Jo, who spent her birthday watching her remarkable daughter make history once again. Unfortunately, she had to do so from her living room and not from the stands of the Toyko Aquatics Centre, due to COVID-19 restrictions. “She means the world to me so this race is obviously for her today as her birthday present”, Pascoe told reporters following her morning heats.
Pascoe now sets her sights squarely on her ‘bread and butter’ races, where she will be looking to increase her gold medal tally and further cement her spot as one of the great Paralympic swimmers in history. She first looks to win her third 100m backstroke gold, with both heats and final in the S9 category taking place on Monday 30th August, before chasing golds in the 100m freestyle (S9), 100m butterfly (S9) and the 200m individual medley (where she is seeking an incredible 4th straight gold). While it wasn’t the absolute dream start for Pascoe in Tokyo, it seems this is going to be far from the last time we see her on the podium over the next few weeks. With every medal, she only adds to her legacy as New Zealand greatest Paralympic athlete.