Already a legend in the marathon community, Daniel Romanchuk won the first Paralympic medal of his career Sunday night with a gold medal on the track.
As the first and only U.S. man – elite or wheelchair – to win the World Marathon Majors series title, and a reigning world champion on the track, Romanchuk had already made a name for himself but had yet to medal at the Paralympic Games.
Romanchuk won the men’s 400m T54 in 45.72 seconds in Tokyo, edging Thailand’s Athiwat Paeng-Nuea by one hundredth of a second. China’s Dai Yunqiang took bronze in 46.20.
The final also included 11-time Paralympic medalist Saichon Konjen of Thailand, four-time world medalist Zhang Yong of China and two-time world medalist Richard Chiassaro, who finished fourth, fifth and seventh.
The Maryland native set an Americas record of 45.31 seconds to win the first heat earlier in the day, while Paeng-Nuea set a Paralympic record of 44.87 in his heat, lowering the previous one that had stood since 2008 by 0.2.
In the final, Romanchuk, 23, trailed the 18-year-old Paeng-Nuea as they rounded the final turn, but chased him down the straightaway and caught him at the line.
Romanchuk made his Paralympic debut five years ago in Rio, where he raced every distance from the 100m to the 5000m but was no better than 13th in his five events.
He started racing marathons in 2016, when he placed 16th in New York City. By 2018, Romanchuk was third in both Boston and London in the spring, then won Chicago and New York in the fall.
The following year, Romanchuk swept the four traditional major marathons and was second in Tokyo. He won the World Marathon Majors series title for 2018-19, joining Tatyana McFadden as the only Americans to do so.
Romanchuk is the first American to win the New York City men’s wheelchair title, and the youngest winner in his event at both Boston and New York.
After his dominant year in the marathon, Romanchuk went to Dubai for the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships and won the 800m T54 world title for his first major medal on the track.
Romanchuk started his hefty Tokyo campaign by placing fourth in the 5000m on Saturday. His six-event schedule will potentially keep him competing daily through Thursday, with a two-day break before the marathon on Sunday, Aug. 5, the final day of the Games.
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!