One Olympics is over and another is about to begin. On the 7th September, the Paralympians of Team GB move to the facilities of Rio to compete in the next set of games. Since London 2012, Paralympics (the Olympic games for people with disabilities) has had much more press and their stars greater recognition. The previous Olympics was the biggest yet and Team GB are hoping to smash their own previous records.
What is the Paralympics?
Surprisingly, the history of the Paralympics goes all the way back to 1960. Although there had been games for people with disabilities before this, 1960 was the first year that the games were open to civilians. Initially, what came to be known as The Paralympic Games were set aside for war veterans injured in conflict.
Today, the complexity and variety of disability means that participants are classed by sport and a complex method of determining severity of impact of their disability on the sport. This has led to controversy and past accusations of cheating against competitors believed to be over-emphasising their disability in order to enter an easier class and gain an advantage.
Past Performances of Team GB
Team GB has always been a Paralympic superpower. We have always finished in the top 5, and nearly always in the top 3. Even with the continued evolution of the games with the addition of new sports, classifications and number of countries, we remain a powerful force. Second place appears to be the norm, with Team GB finishing second in every Paralympics except Heidelberg 1972 (3rd), Toronto 1976 (5th), Arnhem 1980 (5th), Seoul 1988 (3rd), Barcelona 1992 (3rd), Atlanta 1996 (3rd) and London 2012 (3rd).
In terms of medal hauls, the best performances have been third place at Seoul 1988 (183 medals with 65 gold, 65 silver and 53 bronze) and second again at Sydney 2000 with 131 (41 gold, 43 silver and 47 bronze).
The Paralympians to Watch
With so many high performers and high expectations, it is perhaps a little difficult to point out key areas and potential winners. There will always be upsets, surprise victories and injuries. Here are our key performers expected to make the headlines.
John Cavanagh: A veteran of the games, archer Cavanagh heads to Rio hoping to claim his first gold medal in a while (he won his last gold at Athens in 2004). He will be taking part in the Individual Compound shooting in the W1 category and is participating at his fifth games
Hannah Cockroft: Athletics is an area where Team GB Paralympians are strong. Hannah is one of several London 2012 gold medallists hoping to claim another victory. She will be competing in 100m, 400m and 800m T34 category
Ellie Simmonds: Arguably the face of the London 2012 Paralympics thanks to her haul of four medals (two gold, one silver, one bronze) Simmonds became a household name. Her career has been nothing short of remarkable, even before London. At Beijing 2008, aged just 13, she won two medals.
Lauren Steadman: Triathlon makes its debut at this games. Luckily for Team GB, we presently have a world champion in the form of Steadman who is expected to lead the charge in this gruelling event. She has participated in previous Paralympics, but as a swimmer – in 2008 and 2012.
Wheelchair basketball (men’s): There will be a men’s and a women’s team at this year’s games. Having claimed no medals between them at London 2012, the men’s team has experienced a boost in recent years as they have won three European Championship titles back to back
David Weir: The wheelchair racer claimed six gold medals between Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and is expected to claim gold again this time around. A six-time winner of the wheelchair London Marathon, Weir has also twice broken the course record for the Great North Run.