On Wednesday (13 January), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced its Ones to Watch athletes for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in equestrian and goalball.
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, which run from 7-18 September, will see up to 4,350 athletes from around 170 countries compete in 528 medal events across 22 different sports.
In an effort to make it easier for the public and media to understand which athletes to look out for at Rio 2016, the IPC between 4-15 January is announcing Ones to Watch in all 22 sports.
The Ones to Watch athletes for equestrian and goalball are as follows:
Sophie Christiansen (GBR)
Christiansen competes in the grade 1a classification and won medals at every Paralympic Games since her first in Athens in 2004. She also won three golds (team, individual and freestyle) at the past two European Championships in 2013 and 2015.
Lee Pearson (GBR)
Pearson completed the triple-triple of Paralympic golds (individual, team and freestyle, grade 1b at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008). At London 2012, he brought a further team gold, individual silver and freestyle bronze.
Pepo Puch (AUT)
Current world No. 3 grade 1b rider won a gold medal at London 2012 in the freestyle event and bronze in the individual competition. Since London, Puch took individual and freestyle golds at the JYSK FEI European Para-Equestrian Dressage Championships in 2013 and at the FEI European Para-Equestrian European Championships in 2015.
Laurentia Tan (SIN)
In a sport dominated by athletes from Europe and North America, Singapore’s Laurentia Tan is one of the most accomplished Asian riders on the Paralympic circuit. In London 2012, she won freestyle silver in the grade la and bronze in the individual competition. She was Singapore’s sole medallist in London 2012.
Rixt Van der Horst (NED)
At the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Van der Horst turned up for her first major international competition, and went home with both the individual and freestyle gold medals in grade II. The next year, she competed in her first ever European Championships, and again took both individual gold medals, helping her team top the overall medal table for the first time and, in doing so, knocked off perennial table-toppers Great Britain.
Cai Changgui (CHN)
Changgui was part of the men’s gold-medal winning team at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics. At the 2015 IBSA Asia-Pacific Championships, Changgui led all male scorers with 19 points, helping China defeat Iran 8-4 for the gold medal and a qualification slot for Rio 2016.
Akiko Adachi (JPN)
Adachi led her team in a comeback four years later at London 2012, as Japan beat Sweden in the semi-finals in a sudden-death thriller. Japan went on to win gold over favourites China, where Adachi scored the lone goal. Japan took bronze at the 2014 World Championships, with Adachi being the leading scorer for her team with nine points.
Feifei Fan (CHN)
Fan played in her first Paralympics at the Beijing 2008 Games, where she helped China take silver and has been a key piece on the team since. She returned with the team to London 2012, where China was poised to win gold against Japan in the final but left again with silver. Expecting to make her third Games appearance, Fan will bring leadership and experience to help China get over the silver hump.
Romario Diego Marques (BRA)
Marques tied for the second-highest scorer at the 2014 World Championships with 30 goals, as his team blew past Finland 9-1for the gold medal. Then at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, Marques helped Brazil showcase their offensive attack again by defeating the USA 10-4 in the finals. Marques averaged four points per game and finished with 13.
Erkki Miinala (FIN)
Miinala was part of the team that won gold at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and will be an integral piece for the Finnish as they strive to retain their title. At the 2014 World Championships, Finland took silver, conceding the gold to Brazil. Miinala led the Finnish in scoring with 24 points at the Championships.
Amanda Dennis (USA)
Described as an all-around performer, Dennis contributed on both defence and offense at the 2014 World Championships, where the USA won gold; Dennis led her team in scoring with 13. The USA dropped a tight finals match to Brazil 7-6 at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games. There Dennis recorded a goal and nine blocks.
On Thursday (14 January), the IPC will announce the Ones to Watch athletes for rowing.