William Stedman has sprung from out of nowhere to claim silver for New Zealand in the men’s T36 long jump at the Tokyo Paralympics.
Sitting in fifth place, well outside the distance required for a medal and with one jump left to go in the final, Stedman pulled a season’s best jump of 5.64m to surge into second place on the rankings and claim his third Paralympic medal.
After winning two bronze medals as a 16-year-old in Rio de Janiero in 2016, Stedman was marked as a rising star of the Kiwi camp.
However, those two medals came in the 200m and 400m running events and long jump was his weakest finish, a jump of 5.35m leaving him in fifth place.
Tonight Stedman showed just how far he has progressed in the jumping discipline and showed extreme composure to produce a medal-winning final jump.
It was an inauspicious beginning to the evening for Stedman as he failed to find his rhythm in the Olympic Stadium.
A no-jump, followed by three middling attempts around the 5.45m range, left Stedman in fifth place and not appearing to be a threat to the leaders.
With two jumps to go, Stedman needed to pull something big out his hat to put some pressure on the front-runners. However, his fifth jump produced another red flag and it all came down to his sixth and final jump of the event.
As Stedman emerged from the sand following his sixth jump, he looked to his coach in the stand and shrugged his shoulders. He wasn’t confident he had done enough.
Seconds later, however, shock and joy came to the face of the 21-year-old as he realised he had put himself into the silver medal position with just three jumpers left to challenge him in the field.
One, then two jumpers failed to best Stedman, before Ukrainian Roman Pavlyk came just 1cm short of the Kiwi’s mark and history was sealed.
Evgenii Torsunov claimed gold (5.76m) for the Russian delegate, Stedman silver (5.64m) and Pavlyk bronze (5.63m).
Stedman will have another shot at a medal in the men’s T36 400m final tomorrow.
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