Two hours before the final of the men’s 100-meter T51 race in this summer’s Paralympic games, Peter Genyn arrived at the venue to find his wheelchair badly damaged.
“We had just arrived 45 minutes before the warmup, and we had three flat tires and a broken compensator. Everybody did everything they could to help, including the Dutch team,” the Belgian athlete told the Olympic Information Services after the race Friday.
Using duct tape to fix the frame, a team of staff from Team Belgium and Ottobock, a company that specializes in prosthetics and wheelchairs, rushed to fix the chair and replace the tires in time for Genyn to compete in the race.
Then the 44-year-old Genyn won gold, setting a new Paralympic record of 20.33 seconds.
“Thankfully I’m a maniac about my equipment, and I had lots of spares,” he said to the OIS. “I got my revenge.”
After his victory, Genyn told the Belgian TV network Sporza that he believed the damage to be an intentional act of “pure sabotage.”
“My chair is hanging together with duct tape. Someone must have been very scared,” he said, reportedly in tears. “It was terrible. I really thought it was over.”
The bronze medalist Roger Habsch, another Belgian athlete, also reported a flat tire that he believed to be intentional, according to Sporza. The Belgian Paralympic Committee has reportedly asked for an investigation.
Genyn is the world-record holder in the T51 classification, which covers track athletes with a variety of spinal cord disabilities with minimal upper body capabilities. Athletes in the T51 classification race in wheelchairs.
Friday’s 100-meter race was Genyn’s second event in the 2020 Paralympic games. He won silver in the 200-meter final, finishing less than half a second behind Finland’s Toni Piispanen.
Genyn’s 100-meter personal best of 19.71 seconds was set last year at an event in Belgium. In the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Genyn won gold in both the 100-meter and 400-meter races.