In addition to London 2012 host broadcaster Channel 4 naming a number of British athletes to look out for, BBC Radio Five, the official radio broadcaster of the Games, has pinpointed a number of international athletes it thinks will make an impact at next year’s Paralympic Games.
BBC Radio Five Live’s Tanni Grey Thompson, a six-time Paralympic champion herself, spoke to The Paralympian, the official magazine of the International Paralympic Committee to give her view on 12 athletes for 2012.
Today, we will showcase six of these athletes, and we will reveal the remaining six tomorrow.
Natalia Partyka (Poland, Table Tennis)
Being born without a right hand and forearm has not stopped the 23-year-old Polish Table Tennis player from competing in both able-bodied and Paralympic events. She won her first international medal at 10 years old and took singles gold and team silver at Athens 2004 Games. In 2008, she competed in her first Olympic Games before duplicating her Athens results in the Paralympic Games. She is sure to be one to watch once again at London 2012.
Tatyana McFadden (USA, Athletics)
Born paralyzed from the waist down, McFadden was adopted from an orphanage in St. Petersburg, Russia and moved to the USA. The T54 racer won four gold medals and broke two world records at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, and she will be looking to improve on the four silver and two bronze medals she won in Athens and Beijing. All that is left for her to add to her resume is Paralympic gold.
Oscar Pistorius (South Africa, Athletics) / Jerome Singleton (USA, Athletics)
The 100m race between these two superstars will be one of the top highlights at London 2012. At January’s World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, the USA’s Singleton became the first man to beat the South African ‘Blade Runner’ in seven years. However, Pistorius posted the fastest 100m time in four years at May’s BT Paralympic World Cup. Whatever happens, keep your eye on both of these competitors in London. And make sure not to blink, or you might miss them.
Jiri Jezek (Czech Republic, Cycling)
The five-time Paralympic champion will go head-to-head with Great Britain’s Jody Cundy, which is bound to be one of the highlights at the Velodrome. London 2012 will mark Jezek’s fifth Paralympic Games, and he will look to add to the two golds, one silver and one bronze he won at the Beijing 2008 Games.
Brazil (Football 5-a-side)
Expect the Brazilian squad to play to the samba beat in this visually impaired sport. All players are blindfolded except the goalkeeper, but the skill levels are exceptional and the 50-minute games are a joy to watch. Brazil has claimed the last two Paralympic crowns, and there is no reason it will not be the favourite once again heading into London 2012.
Iran (Men’s Sitting Volleyball)
Iran is now certainly the world’s superpower when it comes to Sitting Volleyball, as it won gold at both the 2008 Beijing Games and last year’s World Championships. At both events, the Iranians beat their rivals from Bosnia Herzegovina – the 2004 Paralympic gold medallists – in the finals.