Lebanon’s sole Paralympian Arz Zahreddine ran a personal best in the men’s 200m T64 qualifying heat on Saturday in Tokyo.
Despite the damp conditions, the former fencing champion-turned-sprinter clocked a time of 24.44 seconds, 0.3 seconds faster than his 2019 World Championships finish in Dubai.
However, it was not quick enough to advance through to the final, as Zahreddine finished last in the heat, behind Sherman Guity of Costa Rica who broke the Paralympic record. Also progressing was Zahreddine's hero Jarryd Wallace of the US who ran a season’s best, along with fellow American, Jonathan Gore.
"Having a winning mindset means staying resilient in the face of unexpected setbacks and failures, and I raced in Japan with a winning mindset," he said.
"After tough days and moments in Lebanon, I'm so happy and satisfied that I broke my personal record and I'm sure this is the beginning of my bright future."
Zahreddine. 22, made history by being the first Lebanese para-athlete to cross the finishing line in the Paralympic track and field competitions.
He had a tough year in getting to Tokyo when his gym was destroyed in the Beirut port explosion in August 2020, while Lebanon’s continued financial collapse amid a global pandemic has brought extra challenges for competing and preparation for athletes.
Zahreddine told The National before his race that he was dedicating his efforts to the victims of the August 4 blast.