To celebrate “One Year to Go” until the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Channel 4 television presenters Ade Adepitan and Rick Edwards have picked out their top six British athletes to look out for at next summer’s event.
As the London 2012 Paralympic host broadcaster, Channel 4 has produced a series of programmes dedicated to Paralympic Sport including the weekly magazine show, That Paralympic Show, and a documentary called Inside Incredible Athletes. The broadcaster is also producing a documentary series entitled Best of British, which will follow a number of top athletes on their journeys to London 2012.
Both Ade and Rick took time out of their busy schedules to speak to The Paralympian, the official magazine of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), to highlight the six Brits they believe will light up London 2012.
Ade Adepitan’s Picks
Helen Freeman (Wheelchair Basketball)
Helen was part of the Great Britain’s women's side that won gold at May’s BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester. She was in a class of her own, averaging more than 20 points per game. She is still very young – she will be 21 at the London 2012 Paralympic Games – but I'm sure that over the next few years she'll be considered one of the top three players in the world. Helen trains in Illinois, so she's familiar with the world's No. 1 team, the USA. GB's girls are fearless at the moment, and I'd bet on them to medal in London.
Andrew Lapthorne (Wheelchair Tennis)
I play as Andy's hitting partner, so I'm well placed to back him for glory at London 2012. He's young and, like Helen, he'll be 21 by the time of the Games. But he's largely talented and has all the shots. He's adept at the slice, he's got cute little drop shots, a good forehand and he's growing in strength all the time. Andy was ranked as the No. 1 doubles player in the world, and he's broken into the top 10 in the singles game. If he can find some consistency, he can be the best on the planet, ahead of his GB quad doubles partner, Peter “The Quadfather” Norfolk.
Sarah Storey (Cycling)
You could say my first two picks were dark horses – stars that could win medals if they fulfil their potential. Sarah's a banker for the podium, though. Not only does she win medals in the velodrome (she won time trial and individual pursuit golds in Beijing), she's also a force on the road. And she could potentially ride at the Olympics, too.
Rick Edwards’ Picks
Hannah Cockroft (Athletics)
Hannah pushed to gold in the 100m and 200m T34 races at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand. She won both races by the proverbial mile. Barring a serious setback in her preparations, Hannah should be unstoppable in 2012. And she'll still have only just turned 20. I also like her Halifax accent, and the fact that she colour-coordinates her nails to her outfit. It's all in the details.
Stephen Miller (Athletics)
Stephen's Paralympic record in the discus event is outstanding – gold in Atlanta, gold in Sydney, gold in Athens, silver in Beijing. At the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, Lahouari Bahlaz was very impressive, taking the top spot over Miller. Stephen hates to lose, absolutely hates it. So, I will be confidently backing him on his way to gold in London.
Matt Skelhon (Shooting)
Matt will be looking to defend the SH1 10 metre prone air rifle gold he won (by half a point) at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. He's also got a big dilemma to ponder: does he bring back the famous Mohican? If I was a betting man (which I am sometimes), I'd say that 2012 will see the return of those punky red spikes. This can only be a good thing.
More than one million people have already expressed their interest for tickets for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. To sign up for your tickets, which go on sale on 9 September, please visit www.london2012.com.
To read the latest edition of The Paralympian, a “One Year to Go” special, please visit www.paralympic.org/sites/default/files/magazine/120202171908195_Paralympian_02_2011_final_xs_14.pdf