A cyclist with artificial limbs who paid his way to the Paralympics by working as a food courier has won gold and smashed the world record – only to cop a fiasco with the Russian athletes’ anthem after he received his medal.
Paralympic Games star Mikhail Astashov took a job with a food delivery service in Ekaterinburg in early 2020 – and now the astonishingly dedicated racer has delivered on the greatest stage of all by winning Olympic gold in Tokyo and breaking the world record in the C1 3,000m individual pursuit event by around ten seconds.
Alongside his immense successes as an athlete, which have included winning the 2019 Paratriathlon World Cup, Astashov became something of a social media sensation 18 months ago when a clip emerged of him making a collection at a fast food restaurant.
Amid concerns from some for Astashov’s welfare, employers Yandex.Food were quoted as describing their recruit to be “easily coping with the phone and the pen” and “very motivated to work.”
“Today, Mikhail went to his first shift and completed the first orders,” they said.
“Like all other couriers, at first a supervisor will supervise his work – he helps all newcomers to adapt to a new job and build a process taking into account the peculiarities of the schedule.”
There has been some conjecture over the level of funding Astashov has received, with his coach, Anatoly Reshetov, explaining that his athlete faces additional financial challenges because of the need to buy equipment for his demanding exploits.
The Department of Information Policy of Buryatia was quoted as saying that Astashov had not initially been including among the candidates for the Russian Russian national team at the Paralympics, adding that they were ready to allocate 240,000 rubles (around $2,355) from their budget.
The 31-year-old had been targeting 350,000 (around $3,435) to help him make Tokyo, and it appears likely that his extra-curricular travels for the delivery service have at least partly helped to fund his path to a sensational set of performances.
Astashov was born with musculoskeletal disorders that meant he did not have arms and legs, moving to a rehabilitation center for children and adolescents with disabilities in the Chelyabinsk region at the age of five.
He played badminton and was a Russian swimming champion before excelling in duathlons and triathlons.
“When I was little, I never thought that I would achieve any high sports results,” Astashov told u-mama after winning the Russian Paratriathlon Championship and World Cup in 2019.
“I do not consider myself an invalid. I do not see any restrictions, I live the same life as ordinary people. I train, cook food, clean the apartment, wash.
I am not ashamed. In the summer I wear shorts, my prostheses are visible. Sometimes people come up and ask questions, but more often they are shy, so they just look.
“Many people with disabilities are afraid of others, lock themselves in their homes and do not go out. Then they get used to sitting at home and see nothing except the computer.”
Another of Astashov’s coaches, Nikolai Teterin, told tjournal that a budget allocation of 1.6 million rubles (around $21,536) had been allocated for sports prostheses.
“These are special running prostheses made in Moscow and weigh 4,300 grams,” he said of Astashov’s prostheses. “For comparison, I will say that [seven-time Olympic gold medalist Oscar] Pistorius’s prostheses weigh 400 grams.”
Russia in tokyo 2020 be like “alright we cannot play our own anthem, so here’s tchaikovsky” they lost nothing lol
— Iqbal Bagus Alfiansyah (@iqbalbalf) August 25, 2021
While Astashov was on song to hit the highest note of his career so far, there is said to have been an awkward moment of musical embarrassment for organizers when his medal ceremony started.
Russian athletes are meant to be accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto in their moment of triumph, but the anthem of the International Paralympic Committee rang out as Astashov was officially recognized, according to Tass.
The medal was reportedly re-awarded to Astashov to the sound of the correct song, which has been chosen by the Russian Paralympic Committee as part of a response to a ruling by doping chiefs precluding athletes from competing under the Russian flag and national anthem.