Karolina Pelendritou, known as the “Princess of the pool,” took gold for Cyprus in the 100 meter SB11 Breaststroke event at the Tokyo Paralympics on Wednesday.
Pelendritou, who is visually impaired, also broke the world record for her event, finishing her 100m breaststroke with a stunning time of 1:19.78.
The swimmer was moved to tears as the Cypriot flag was raised and the national anthem played as she received her gold medal.
In the qualifying round for the event, the Cypriot swimmer finished first with a time of 1:24.54.
Jia Ma from China took silver in the event, and Yana Berezhna, of Ukraine, won the bronze medal at the Games.
This is Pelendritou’s second medal at the Tokyo Paralympics, after she won bronze in the women’s 50 meter freestyle S11 event.
Karolina Pelendritou was first athlete from Cyprus to win a medal at the Paralympics
During her Paralympic run at the Games held in Athens in 2004, Pelendritou became the first Cypriot athlete to ever win a Paralympic medal when she took gold in the women’s 100 meter breaststroke SB 13 event.
She followed this monumental achievement with massive success on the world stage, including another Gold medal and a bronze during the Games in Beijing in 2008, and a silver medal at the 2012 Paralympics in London.
After returning from Beijing, Pelendritou faced a number of health issues and underwent multiple surgeries. Although her doctor advised her that she may never swim professionally again, the athlete defied all expectations and was soon back in the pool.
Pelendritou participated in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, Brazil, as well.
Including the Tokyo Paralympics, Pelendritou has competed in each iteration of the Games since her first appearance in Athens in 2004.
Born and raised in the city of Limassol, Cyprus, Pelendritou began swimming at the age of nine when a family member recognized her talent and urged her to begin the sport.
Just one year later, the talented swimmer became a member of the Cyprus Swimming Federation. It was at this time that Pelendritou’s vision began to deteriorate.
At the age of 13, Pelendritou joined the Cypriot National Swimming Team. While competing with the team, she broke her country’s records for women’s 50 meter and 100 meter breaststroke events. These records remain unbroken to this day.
Greece wins silver on Wednesday at Tokyo Paralympics
Grigoris Polychronidis won the silver at boccia, a precision ball sport, similar to bocce, and related to bowls and pétanque. The sport is contested at local, national and international levels, by athletes with severe physical disabilities.
39-year-old Polychronidis lost in the final to Adam Peska of the Czech Republic.
The Greek Paralympic athlete, ranked first in the World Ranking List since 2018, has won four Paralympic Medals (Gold in London 2012, Silver & Bronze in Rio 2016, Silver in Beijing 2008), as well as 35 medals in official international boccia competitions and 18 consecutive Greek Championships.