8 for 2018: Para athletes looking to bounce back

With regional championships on the horizon these athletes could win big 28 Mar 2018
a female Para athlete wrapped in the Chinese flag

Double Paralympic champion Zhou Xia is targeting Asian Games gold after London 2017 disappointment

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While 2017 may not have gone to plan for some, which of the world’s elite Para athletes can bounce back this year and make a name for themselves once again?

1. Pongsakorn Paeyo (Thailand)

Paeyo won 400m and 800m T53 gold as well as two silvers at Rio 2016, but he was beaten to the top of the podium at London 2017 by Brent Lakatos. The Canadian was in spectacular form, securing a clean sweep of gold medals in the T53 class. However, Paeyo is just 21 years old and with youth on his side will no doubt be determined to regain the top spot. This year’s Asian Para Games could provide the perfect opportunity to make a big impression.

2. Hu Jianwen (China)

Hu first made a name for himself at Doha 2015 when he won 100m, 200m and long jump T38 gold – although he didn’t get to face defending champion Evan O’Hanlon, who missed the World Championships that year due to injury. The two did go head-to-head at Rio 2016 however, and it was Hu who came out on top, smashing O’Hanlon’s 100m T38 world record. But at London 2017 Hu had to settle for second behind the Australian in the 100m; he also won 200m silver behind South African Dyan Buis and was disqualified from the 400m, although he did strike gold in the long jump.

3. Timothée Adolphe (France)

World bronze medallist in 2013 and 2015, Adolphe went on to suffer a series of disqualifications at major championships – including the 2016 European Championships and Rio 2016. Heartache continued at London 2017 when he fell in the final five metres of the 400m, then dipped early in the 200m, crossing the line after his guide. Adolphe returned home to France without a medal but undoubtedly has the ability to deliver on the international stage.

4. Libby Clegg (GB)

Double gold medallist at Rio 2016, injury struck both Clegg and her regular guide Chris Clark in 2017, ruling the pair of out of a home World Championships. But the visually impaired sprinter is back in training this year and will no doubt be determined to make her mark once again.

5. Felix Streng (Germany)

German sprinter Streng also missed out on the 2017 World Championships after a highly successfully Rio Games where he won 100m, 200m and long jump T44 silver as well as 4x100m T42-47 relay gold. The 23-year-old, who was born in Bolivia, is back in action this year and determined to make his make his mark at his home European Championships in Berlin. He opened his season with a personal best 7.15 seconds over 60m and a long jump best of 7.41m.

6. Mohamad Puzi (Malaysia)

Mohamad Puzi became the first Malaysian to win gold at the Paralympic Games when he won the 100m T36 in at Rio 2016, but ten months later he had to settle for silver as China’s Yang Yifei turned the tables on the Paralympic champion, speeding to a new Asian record (11.93) in the process. Who will come out on top this year?

7. Zhou Xia (China)

Double gold medallist at Rio 2016, the T35 sprinter had to settle for second at last year’s World Championships, finishing behind Australia’s teenage sensation Isis Holt. Still, at just 18 years old, there’s no doubt Zhou has the ability to be a thorn in Holt’s side at future major championships – both went below the previous world record mark in the 100m final in London – and with the Asian Para Games to look forward to, Zhou has an important season ahead.

8. Jo Butterfield (GB)

A shoulder injury severely disrupted Butterfield’s progress last year, and although the Briton did manage to line up at London 2017, she only managed fourth in the club throw F51 before withdrawing from the discus competition. World champion in 2015, Butterfield added the Paralympic title at Rio 2016 – despite throwing with an injury there too. The 38-year-old underwent surgery at the end of last year and if rehab continues to go well, defending her European crown could be a realistic target.