Now that the Paralympics have gotten the sort of coverage they always deserved, does anybody still doubt whether these events are compelling enough to hold an audience? Not every storyline lived up to its billing, but enough of them did to make for a show that always entertained and frequently achieved high drama.
Here are five events that fall into the latter category, all of them featuring amputee athletes. We doubt you’ve already seen all five (bully for you if you have), as three of them took place in the middle of the night US time, only some made it into MSNBC’s prime-time highlights coverage, and only one was broadcast live at a decent hour US time—and that was on a Saturday night on a three-day holiday weekend, when TV viewership always lags.
Fortunately, all of these events are available to stream for free. We’ve included links below to the broadcasts for these five, but if you’re looking for content that’s not on our list you can find it at NBC’s central replay warehouse. Click the drop-down labeled “Sports,” scroll to the sport you want, and go from there. Whatever you do, be sure to check out this handful of thrilling moments from Tokyo.
Women’s 4×100 Medley Relay
The US fielded a seemingly unbeatable all-amputee team of Hannah Apsden (backstroke) Mikaela Jenkins (breaststroke), Jessica Long (butterfly), and Morgan Stickney (freestyle). All four had already won individual gold medals earlier in the Games, a feat no other team could match. And of course no other team had the immortal Long on its side. Even so, there were enough magnificent swimmers in the pool that the United States found itself in fourth place (behind Russia, Spain, and Australia) heading into Stickney’s anchor freestyle leg. Her phenomenal swim to leapfrog all three and bring home the gold for Team USA will be long remembered. Watch it here.
Men’s High Jump F63
Sam Grewe won world championships in 2015 and 2017 and set a world record in 2019. But he came to Tokyo without a Paralympic gold medal on his mantle, and with one jump to go in the finals he still hadn’t closed the deal. See the entire competition here, starting at the 68:15 mark. The real drama begins at about 90:00 as Grewe—jumping head to head with Indian jumpers Mariyappan Thangavelu and Sharad Kumar in a steady rain—not once, but twice clears the bar on a do-or-die jump to bring home the gold. Gripping stuff.
Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Final
This seesaw battle was as exciting as any NBA playoff contest. Fresh off an upset of reigning world champion Great Britain in the semifinals, the young Japanese squad charged out to an early eight-point lead over Team USA in the title game. The Americans kept their cool and regained the lead, taking a five-point advantage into the locker room, only to cough up the lead in the third quarter. Japan kept the pressure on into the fourth quarter and pushed their lead to five points with less than five minutes to go. Team USA’s finishing rally was something to behold. The game starts at about the 160:00 mark of this feed.
Women’s Handycling H5 Road Race
Two days after winning gold in the time trial, Oksana Masters bolted out to the lead early in the H5 road race, trailed closely by Chinese rider Bianbian Sun. If you’re not familiar with cycling, bolting out to the front early is not usually the winning play; you’re better off hanging back and riding on the leader’s wheel, conserving energy, and then vaulting into the lead in the final few kilometers. That’s exactly what Sun tried to do, to Masters’ evident aggravation. This fascinating game of cat-and-mouse lasted for roughly an hour, but Masters dropped the hammer on the penultimate climb and left Sun in her dust. The final third of the race begins here, with Masters’ devastating breakaway coming about 15 minutes in.
Women’s Triathlon PTS2
Team USA swept all the podium positions in 2016, and all three Rio medal-winners were back on the course in Tokyo. Melissa Stockwell finished the race’s first segment (the swim) in second place; Hailey Danz, the silver medalist in Rio and the winner of the North American qualifying race in late June, finished the bicycle segment with a small lead and lengthened it out to about half a minute halfway through the concluding 5K run. Seely, who finished the bicycle race about 50 seconds behind Danz, steadily chewed into the deficit and finally took the lead with about a kilometer to go. It was master class in race tactics; Seely only led for about five minutes of an hour-long race, but they were the last five minutes, and good for another gold medal. Danz held on for a well-earned silver. Watch it here; the women’s race begins at about the 10:30 mark.