The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games are set to kick off on 24 August with more than 4,000 athletes from all over the world competing across 22 sports.
A total of 120 of those athletes have been beneficiaries of initiatives funded by the International Paralympic Committee’s National Paralympic Committee (NPC) Development Programme since 2017, with 65 of them being women.
At Tokyo 2020, a record number of female competitors are set to participate – at least 40.5 per cent of them will be women.
Dominican Republic’s swimming Parapan American silver medallist and IPC-supported athlete Alejandra Aybar said: “The NPCDP has been of vital importance in my sporting career, because it allowed me to participate in multiple preparatory events before the Games.
“Programmes like this one allow athletes from poorer countries like mine to gain experience competing, especially since we don't stage Paralympic competitions.
"Being in Tokyo is everything I have dreamed of for the last three years -because I have very little time in the sport-. I have no words to describe it, I feel very excited to compete, I love this pool, it feels fast and my goal is to reach the final in one of the events I participate in."
Alejandro Aybar Ⓒ Lima 2019
The NPC Development Programme powered by IPC’s Worldwide Partner Toyota has been offering opportunities for NPCs around the world to have access to competitions and training opportunities.
The programme aims to close the gaps in Para sport participation in terms of gender, sport, impairment and region. There are three elements to the programme: organisational development, sport technical training, and athlete development, all receiving direct financial support grants.
In total, 947 Para athletes, coaches and guides from 137 NPCs have benefitted from the initiative between 2017 and 2021.
Jamaican taekwondoin and NPC Development Programme beneficiary Shauna Kay Hines added: “The opportunity I received to participate in the NPC Development Programme was important to me because it stimulated and exposed my knowledge on the development of Para sports both locally and internationally.
“I can attest it means a lot to us Para athletes to receive this kind of support from IPC to become nation builders and our place in society.”
Paraguay will be making their Paralympic debut at Tokyo 2020 with IPC-supported T12 female runner Melissa Nair Tillner Galeano being one of the country’s two representatives together with S9 male swimmer Rodrigo Hermosa.
“I am happy, proud and excited to the bone to be a participant at the Games. It’s a dream come true, in such a short time since the Paraguayan Paralympic Committee was formed four years ago.
“I see a promising future, I believe that with our participation, many people with disabilities will be encouraged and will approach the different sports federations to start sports, since the Paralympic Games will set the example that everyone can practice a sport.”
Tokyo 2020 will also mark Bhutan’s first Paralympic appearance through Chimi Dema, who benefitted from the NPC Development Programme, competing in the women’s shot put F40.
Dema said: “I am happy for having received this support. Through this programme, I got the opportunity to represent my country at different competitions and at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“This is Bhutan’s debut at a Paralympics, I am happy to be a part of it and will give my best performance.”