Chinese para-swimmer Zheng Tao produced an incredible display as he smashed his own backstroke world record to win another gold medal at Tokyo 2020
The Paralympics has never been short of incredible athletes – but the legacy of Chinese para-swimmer Zheng Tao is going to take some beating.
Despite having no arms the 30-year-old now has nine Paralympics medals to his name, six of them gold, and produced a phenomenal swim to smash his own 50m backstroke S5 world record in Tokyo.
These Games have also yielded gold in 50m butterfly, 50m freestyle, and mixed 4x50m freestyle relay for Zheng, but thanks to a video posted online by Paralympics broadcaster Channel 7, it’s his backstroke exploits that have gone viral.
In the video, Zheng can be seen hanging off a piece of material by his teeth in order to get his quick start. Still holding on with his jaw, he flung himself back when the claxon sounded and dived backwards into the pool.
When he rose from under the water, he already had a big lead and proceeded to kick his legs at tremendous speeds to pull away from the chasing pack.
And he powered through the final few metres to reach the wall in 31.42 seconds, shattering his own world record in the process.
Footage of his display immediately went viral on social media with Channel 7’s clip on Facebook surpassing 750,000 views in less than two days.
Even more remarkably, Zheng’s butterfly final took place later on that night, and the four gold medals he has bagged in Tokyo add to the Paralympic 100m backstroke titles he won at both London 2012 and Rio 2016, as well as picking up two silvers and a bronze over the course of those Games.
And his freestyle win two days later, also a new Paralympic record, represented China’s 500th gold medal since 1984 at the Summer Paralympics.
“I went all out with no regrets as this is my last race at Tokyo 2020. I think this was one of my best races ever,” the 30-year-old said afterwards.
Zheng was still a child when he lost his arms in a freak electric shock accident, but at the age of 14 took up swimming and in 2010 made his international swimming debut when by representing China at the World Championships in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
As well as his feats in the Paralympics, he has four IPC Swimming World Championship gold, and two silver, medals to his name.