Blind athletes at the Tokyo Paralympics: Five outstanding achievements

Blind athlete and swimmer Anastasia Pagonis


It was an incredible Paralympics this summer in Tokyo with some superhuman performances from blind athletes. Here we round up some of the most impressive individual and team achievements from visually impaired competitors.


1. Brazil win 5-aside-football gold, again!

Brazil continue to dominate Paralympic 5-a-side football, winning their fifth consecutive title.

They extended their unbeaten run in the competition to a phenomenal 27 games and remain undefeated at the Paralympics since the sport’s debut at Athens in 2004.

I just want to thank God that we won the gold medal,” said captain Ricardo Alves, known as Ricardinho. “We’ve played five Paralympics and won five gold medals. We are warriors. Our preparation and our winning spirit carried us through.”

They topped Group A after wins against China, Japan and France, scoring 11 without conceding in the process.

They went on to beat Morocco in the semi-finals, courtesy of an own goal, before defeating arch rivals Argentina by a single goal to nil in the final.

On beating Argentia, Ricardinho said, “Brazil versus Argentina is always a classic. Argentina are a great team. We respect them, and that makes this victory even more important. I feel very privileged to have won this final.

These blind athletes are currently way ahead of the field and it could be some time before they are knocked off their pedestal.


2. Sevda Altunoluk – Turkish Goalball Hero

Turkey’s Sevda Altunoluk continued her prolific goal scoring, perhaps cementing her position as the world’s greatest ever goalball player.

The formidable 27-year-old was the top scorer in the competition with an incredible 45 goals.

In the group games she scored 10 against Egypt, 7 against Japan, 6 against Brazil and 3 against the USA.

The following round (the quarter finals) she scored 8 goals in the team’s 10-6 win over Australia. In the semi-finals she scored another 8 goals in the win over hosts Japan.

However she saved her finest performance for the final where she scored an incredible 9 goals against the USA, in a 9-2 victory. Her goals helped Turkey retain the Paralympic title, and with Altunaluk claiming her second Paralympic gold medal.

She’s been the top goal scorer in 8 of the last 11 major tournaments that she’s played in.

At 27-years-old, still has a couple more Paralympics left to further her dominance of the sport.


3. Athanasios Ghavelos – the fastest blind athlete in the world

Greece’s Athanasios Ghavelos won the 100m gold, setting a new world record in the process.

He took home Greece’s first Paralympic gold of Tokyo 2020.

Ghavelas, 22,  won the category T11 with a time of 10.82 seconds.

He beat his own record of 10.88 seconds in the qualifiers the day before (he had also set a new WR at the European Championships in June).

This category is about visual problems and when something like this happens, we have the energy and strength to continue. I wish for all the people who have any problem to continue to do everything they like or love, just as we are doing”, Ghavelas told reporters.

He also spoke about living with a visual impairment and his companion Gkaragkanis early last month.

You need a companion in the race that you can work in absolute harmony with. In fact, your companion must have a better performance than you… You have to have excellent coordination, to move like a single body… This requires hard practice in training.”


4. Azerbaijan dominate the Judo medal table

Judoka from around the world gathered at the legendary home of judo, the Nippon Budokan, for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, with Azerbaijan coming out on top.

The country won an incredible six out of a possible 13 gold medals.

Shahana Hajiyeva started the gold rush on day one in the women’s up to 48kg

Vugar Shirinli was the second to win gold in the men’s up to 60kg.

The team took three golds the following day. Sevda Valiyeva and Khanim Huseynova were victorious in the women’s up to 57kg and up to 63kg, respectively. Huseyn Rahimili took gold for the men’s 81kg.

Dursadaf Karimova took the last of Azerbaijan’s golds in the women’s up to 70kg on the final day of the Judo competition.

The team also took home two bronze medals and a silver.


5. Anastasia Pagonis – swimming record breaker

In her first major tournament Anastasia Pagonis not only won her first gold medal but also broke the Paralympic record in the 400m freestyle.

She finished the race in 4:54.49, a massive 10.85 seconds ahead of the silver medalist, breaking the Paralympic record for the second time in a day!

Pagonis first broke the Paralympic record, when she won her heat in 4:58.40, almost 30-seconds faster than the runner-up.

Later she also went on to win bronze in the 200-meter individual medley.

Pagonis was already something of a celebrity before the games.  She is a TikTok star with more than 2 million followers. She uses the platform to show people how she navigates life as a blind athlete, teaching them about adaptive sports and the visually impaired community. A video in which she explains how she brushes her teeth has more than 12 million views.



Goalfix Sports is a specialist supplier of adaptive sports equipment. We supply a range of IBSA approved equipment for blind sports for blind football and goalball, including to the Tokyo Paralympic games.