Zachary Gingras has earned his first-ever Paralympic medal, running his way to a bronze in the men’s T38 400-metre final on Tuesday, at Tokyo.
The Canadian finished with a personal best time of 50.85 seconds, breaking his previous mark set at the qualifying heats over the weekend.
Propelled by a great start and second turn, Gingras held on to a podium position with Ali Al-Rikabi of Iraq right on his heels during the final stretch.
Gingras, who was running in his first Paralympic final, tried to keep his same mentality from the qualifiers.
“I just tried to run it like my heats,” he said. “I went in relaxed and tried not to let the moment get to me too much. I got out fast and kept that same pace.”
What wasn’t consistent were the elements.
The track at the Japan National Stadium was slick with rain on Tuesday, which wasn’t the case during qualifying heats. The conditions didn’t deter Gingras from winning Canada’s third medal in the Athletics category.
Mexico’s Jose Rodolfo Chessani Garcia won the gold, finishing with a personal best time of 49.99 seconds. Mohamed Farhat Chida of Tunisia rounded out the podium, claiming silver.
With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting qualifying events and Paralympic scheduling, Gingras is thrilled to see his dedication rewarded.
“It means so much,” he said. “It’s been a tough 18 months for everyone so to come out here and perform the way I did is nice to show that all my hard work paid off.”
Amidst the joy of the event, the 20-year-old can’t help but think something is missing.
“I wish my family were here to share the moment with me,” he said. “It would have been something special, but I’m sure they’re probably crying on the couch back in Canada.”
Gingras isn’t done yet. The Markham, Ont. native is part of Canada’s 400-metre universal relay team that will compete later in the week.
“I’ll enjoy this tonight,” he said, “and then it’s back to getting primed tomorrow for the relay and hopefully getting another of these (Paralympic medals) around my neck.”