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20th Aug 2021

Paralympics: These are Great Britain’s gold-medal hopes

Adam Bloodworth

The Tokyo 2020 Summer Paralympic Games get underway on August 24 – here’s who to watch and how to do it

The golden glow of the Tokyo Olympics may have faded since Team GB collected their 65-medal haul, but the games are only just beginning for our Paralympians.

The starter’s pistol is set to fire on the Tokyo 2020 Summer Paralympic Games on Tuesday, with 44 GB athletes set to compete for glory during two weeks of competition. It is estimated that over 4,300 athletes in total will participate in over 500 events, across 22 sports, and in 21 venues.

All of the action will be broadcast on Channel 4 and All 4

The success of London 2012, helped transform the way the Paralympics is viewed, with Channel 4 branding the athletes ‘superhumans’, so this year’s games are highly anticipated.

Here’s who you might see on the podium.

The legend slot

The billing is normally reserved for the headline act on a grand stage, rather than a stadium, but we’re giving the ‘legend slot’ at this year’s games to David Weir, a wheelchair athlete competing in the 1500m, 5000m, and marathon.

He’s a six-time Paralympic gold medal champion and Tokyo earmarks his sixth Paralympic Games, with Weir first competing in the 1996 games 25 years ago. Weir is most famous for taking four gold medals at London 2012 when he raced a huge (and hugely tiring) seven times across ten days.

Weir, 42, says he’s confident about returning to the world stage after failing to make the podium in Rio, where he was also accused of sabotaging a race. “That was probably the toughest time I have experienced. “When you get accused of throwing a race, when you are actually trying to help the team, and I’m going for a medal as well, it was quite heartbreaking for me,” he told the Independent.

“I couldn’t cope with it. It has been a long process trying to get back to where I feel happiest. I met my partner two years ago and I moved down to the south coast with her. It was a new start and I feel like a new person now.”

The newcomers

Two sports have been added to the Paralympic Games for Tokyo, badminton and taekwondo.

When it comes to taekwondo, Matt Bush is one of Britain’s most exciting hopes.

Bush is ParalympicsGB’s first-ever Para male world champion, having won the world championships in 2019. He joined the British Taekwondo team when the sport was added to the Paralympics roster in 2015. Formerly he trained in Brazilian Jujitsu.

Bush has already won medals at a couple of other key Taekwondo events, such as the Oceania Para Taekwondo Championships and the Pan America Taekwondo Open, so there’s a good reason to hope he’ll do well in Tokyo.

Amy Truesdale, who has World Championship wins in 2014 and 2017,  and Beth Munro, who made her first appearance in taekwondo earlier this year, are also on the team. Munro’s a true all-rounder: she has also participated in the javelin and netball Paralympic teams.

Four Brits are attempting to make history when badminton makes its debut.

Jack Shephard, who was voted BWF Male Para Badminton player of the year in 2018, is a bit of an industry legend.

He won the World Championship Singles titles in 2017 and 2019, and also took two gold medals at the European Championships in 2018.

Daniel Bethell is also a brilliant hope for Britain. He’s ranked second in the world in singles and is a three-time European champion. Not bad for a 25-year-old from Bath.

Krysten Coombs also has European medals under his belt: gold in 2016 and silver in 2017, and will play alongside Shephard in the men’s doubles.

Another contender to watch for Britain is Martin Rooke, who’s another seasoned medallist. Rooke is ranked third in the world and has four European gold medals to propel him forward at this year’s Games.

Competitors defending titles to watch out for

A number of athletes touching down in Tokyo are attempting to defend their titles.

Britain left Rio top of the medal table for rowing in 2016, and three of that team will return to Tokyo alongside newcomers.

The three returning medallists are James Fox, Lauren Rowles (pictured above) and Laurence Whiteley, who will compete across the mixed coxed four and mixed double sculls events to defend gold and silver titles won in 2016.

When it comes to the equestrian team, four defending champions, Sir Lee Pearson, Sophie Christiansen, Natasha Baker and Sophie Wells will all be lining up again. Between them, they have a massive 30 gold medals.

“ParalympicsGB has a stellar record in para equestrian, but we can’t afford to be complacent,” Para equestrian team leader Georgina Sharples said in a statement. “Other nations have been making great strides since Rio and will be breathing down our necks in Tokyo.”

Two British women, Jeanette Chippington and Emma Wiggs, will defend their gold titles won in canoeing. Chippington is a particularly intriguing competitor. Incredibly, she first debuted at the Seoul 1988 Games, competing as a swimmer.

Speaking about her seventh games, she said in a statement: “I still can’t believe I have been selected for my seventh Paralympic Games – but the excitement is still the same as if it was my first.”

How to watch the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

Coverage of the games – from Tuesday, August 24 until Sunday, September 5 – will be broadcast on Channel 4 and All 4, which has access to all of the Paralympics. Thankfully, the broadcaster isn’t in the tricky position the BBC was left in for the Olympics when they could only broadcast two live events at a time.

Over 300 hours of live coverage will be broadcast between the two channels.

Channel 4 confirmed that more than 70% of their presenters for the Paralympics will have a disability, and coverage will come live from Tokyo, as well as Leeds and London. The broadcaster describes its commitment to representing diversity on screen as “groundbreaking.”

Presenters will include wheelchair basketball player Ade Adepitan, former wheelchair racer Tanni Gray-Thompson, former Royal Marine JJ Chalmers and former Rugby Union player Ed Jackson.

Related links

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