ATHENS, 26 September 2004 — A mass brawl marred Brazil’s 4-1 defeat of archrivals Argentina in the semifinal of the Paralympics soccer tournament yesterday. Tempers flared in the 56th minute of the seven-a-side contest, resulting in three Brazilians being sent off, including hat trick hero Luciano Rocha, and one Argentine.
Brazil will play Ukraine for the gold medal on Monday after they beat Russia 4-0.
“I can’t explain what happened and I really feel sorry,” said Rocha.
“I don’t know why the referee suspended me, since I wasn’t involved in the incident. My team has already protested and I hope the video will prove that I didn’t do anything, so that I will be able to help my team in the final.”
Tempers flared when Brazil were already leading 4-0. Rocha had put them ahead in the 37th minute and then scored again two minutes later. A third from Jose Guimares made the game safe and Rocha added a fourth in the 55th minute to compete his hat trick.
Just a minute later Brazil’s Flavio Pereira and Mario Sosa of Argentina became involved in a heated verbal conflict, triggering a mass brawl that held up play for five minutes. Both players were sent off along with Rocha and fellow Brazilian Leandro Marinho. With Argentina enjoying a 6-4 numerical advantage it was little surprise that they pulled a goal back when Marcos Silva scored an own goal.
With China’s lead close to unassailable in the final stretch of the Athens Paralympics, Britain and Australia were dueling for second place in the overall medal standings as the Games resumed yesterday.
Also yesterday, organizers announced that ticket sales were approaching the 800,000 mark, twice as many as predicted before the Paralympics began.
Britain had the edge in gold, with 24 to Australia’s 19, but was one shy in total medals, 62 to 63. China had a total of 93 medals at the end of competition Friday, 36 of them gold.
Both Australia and Britain are strong in swimming, which will yield 18 gold medals, but Australia can expect a better showing in the final day of road cycling competition.
Meanwhile, Korea — 27th overall with three gold and 14 total medals — is hoping its top-ranked archers can nail enough bulls’ eyes over two days of competition to improve its position in the general standings.
Korean bowmen are present in four of six semifinal events, with Japan, Thailand and China also in contention for precious metal.
In athletics, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will be on hand to distribute the medals after what is probably the most anticipated event of these Games: The 100 meter dash for below the knee amputees.
“You will have to run under 11 seconds to win,” world record holder Marlon Shirley said. Shirley’s current record is 11:08.
On Friday, undefeated middle-distance runner Henry Wanyoike from Kenya, accompanied by his seeing guide Joseph Kibunja Gachui, broke his own world record Friday in the “T11” 5,000 meters race with a time of 15 minutes and 11.07 seconds.
A prodigy runner in his youth, Wanyoike began running in non-seeing competition four years after a stroke left him totally blind in 1995.
Also in T11 competition, China scored gold when Wu Chunmiao won the woman’s 100 meters dash in a personal best time of 25.39 seconds, 1.5 seconds off the Paralympics record of 24.99.
In the T11 men’s 200 meters dash, Angola’s Jose Armando broke the 23 second barrier, setting a world record for non-sighted athletes of 22.73 seconds.
Another highlight of the sixth day of athletics competition was the 4 X 400 relay for wheelchair athletes, who race in chairs with two large, sloping wheels on either side of the seat and a third, much smaller wheel in front. Thailand edged out France for the gold, setting a world record, while a strong Japanese team took third.
There will be a lot of gold on offer in athletics, with 24 podiums. Also Canada will square off against New Zealand for the gold medal match in wheelchair rugby.