The competition was held after heavy rain fell tirelessly throughout the evening. As a result, athletes spent more time clearing the pitching area than concentrating on their throws.
Sandra Perković threw in almost the same conditions during the Olympic Games, but the competition was interrupted for more than half an hour. Not this time.
In such almost impossible conditions, the 30-year-old from Imotski, a member of Zagreb’s AKOSI Urih, won silver with a result of 55.06. The gold went to team USA’s Jeremy Campbell, who threw 60.22, while the bronze went to Great Britain’s Dan Greaves (53.56).
American Davi Blair, who, along with Campbell and Ivan, was the only one to throw over 60 meters this year, was fourth with 53.18, and in the third series, he even slipped and fell.
Katanušić has thus won medals at the largest competition for people with disabilities, including World and European Championship medals and medals at the IWAS World Games,
“At this moment, it took five years of blood, sweat, tears, sciatica, leg fracture, appendicitis, joint surgery, ligament assembly. I told the coach either I would ‘die’ and win a medal today or it would be the end of the sport for me. However, I would not have given up if it had fallen even harder,” said Katanušić.
Ivan came to Tokyo with the European record of 62.13, which he threw in May 2019 in Split. He also threw 62.61 meters, but it was not in the verified WPA competition, so it was not recognized. However, he won the silver medal throwing only 55.06 this time.
“If someone had told me that I would win a medal with this result, I would not have believed them. My workouts were around 62, 63 meters. But nothing could be done today. It was slippery; you have no control over your leg. However, it did not touch me. I was in a world of my own,” said Katanušić, the world bronze medalist in Dubai 2019 and London 2017.
He also won six medals at the European Championships, including gold in discus throw from Bydgoszcz in 2021 and gold in shot put from Grosset in 2016.
Ivan’s leg was amputated twenty days after he was born. There were complications during childbirth as he had thrombosis. But at 13 months, doctors called him a “miracle child” after he walked with a prosthesis.
This Imotski native never let his disability get in the way of sports and was active in football, handball, and basketball with his peers. Before athletics, he was one of Croatia’s best national team members in sitting volleyball.
“Losing my lower leg is a great disability, but I am healthier and more capable than at least 80 percent of my healthy generation,” he emphasized.
He was lucky that at the start of his athletic career, he was received by coaching legend, the late Ivan Ivančić. He repeatedly pointed out that when there was no real support, “Trendžo” was the one who provided him with vitamins and professional help. The first results soon began to arrive. At the 2014 Swansea European Championships, he won silver, then bronze. When Ivančić passed away in August 2014, he started working with Roland Varga.
“Trendžo would be proud now,” he added.
After a year with his new coach, he improved his personal record by more than seven meters. In the years that followed, he won six medals at the European and World Championships.
One of the most difficult moments in his career happened in 2015 when he broke his left, healthy leg. He had a double fracture, a tendon, and a ligament injury, but he did not give up. The following year, he won gold in the shot put and silver in the discus at the European Disability Championships in Grosett, Italy, just a few hours apart.
Rio de Janeiro also didn’t go as planned. He had a ruptured ligament in his foot that he had operated on a year earlier. Even with this injury, Ivan was still fifth in Rio in the end.
“It was a difficult competition, but it was even harder for Ivan. The conditions were really awful, especially for discus throwers in this category, which can be seen from the results. However, these are the Paralympic Games; the placement is important, not the result,” said coach Roland Varga.
“When I saw it was raining all day, I knew that the results would not be top-notch,” he added.
They have been working together for seven years, and Varga has discovered the key to Ivan’s success.
“Ivan behaves, thinks, and lives as if he has no disability. He grows year after year, is more stable, and technically better. But, this is just the beginning. There are certainly two more cycles ahead of him,” Varga said.
Croatian Athletics now has two medals at the Paralympics in Tokyo. This is the second silver medal after Velimir Šandor.
“Katanušić had the third result this season, and we hoped to fight for a medal, but silver in these conditions is more than an excellent result. We still have the performances of Rio gold medalist Mikela Ristoski and Zoran Talić, who never returns without a medal and prevails at big competitions. Deni Černi and Vladimir Gašpar can also find their place high in the standings,” said coach Damjan Sedić.
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