Ireland’s Jason Smyth proved that he is amongst the fastest para-athletes in the world during a festival in Rio to celebrate one year to go until the Paralympic Games on Sunday (6 September).
And there are more Irish athletes expected to join him in a year’s time, as Paralympics Ireland released a special video on Monday (7 September) to also mark the milestone.
Ever since the close of the London 2012 Games, Ireland’s leading Paralympic athletes have been training and competing internationally in pursuit of qualification for Rio 2016. To date, places have already been secured for Paralympics Ireland in shooting, cycling (two bikes) and the football 7-a-side.
Ireland is hopeful of a strong final team for Rio of between approximately 45 to 50 athletes across eight-10 sports. Qualification is secured across the sports in a variety of means, such as world rankings/top placings at major Championships and designated events, as well as reaching minimum qualification standards (times and marks etc.) in many sports such as athletics and swimming.
Swimmers Ellen Keane and Darragh McDonald are expected to represent Ireland. Cyclist Eoghan Clifford is another Irish athlete seeking a spot in Rio 2016; he claimed gold in the time trial at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships in August. Earlier in the year, Clifford also won gold and bronze at the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships, with the women’s tandem of Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal also taking world bronze.
Ireland also hopes to land qualification slots at upcoming events: International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Para-Equestrian Dressage European Championships, held 17-20 September in Deauville, France; and the IPC Athletics World Championships set for 21-31 October in Doha, Qatar.
A host of Irish athletes – with the support of their expert sports science and medicine team, Chef de Mission and coaching and management staff – have just returned from a 12-day familiarisation camp in Uberlandia, which is north of Rio. Uberlandia is where the Irish Paralympic team will be based for their 2016 pre-Games holding camp so the idea behind travelling this year is to road test facilities, accommodation and transportation.
Tickets for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games have already gone on sale for Brazilian residents.