Six visually impaired swimmers on their road to Rio 2016At the start of a Paralympic Games year, here are swimmers to follow in 2016. 12 Jan 2016
The 2016 season features the biggest competition in everyone’s calendar – the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro between 7-18 September.
Before then, Funchal, Portugal, will host the 2016 IPC Swimming European Open Championships – offering athletes the last chance to test themselves on the major international stage before they head to Brazil.
Here are six visually impaired swimmers who could make an impact this year.
Maksym Veraksa (Ukraine)
In his thirties Veraksa remains one of the men to beat in the men’s S12, particularly in the 50m freestyle.
He has held the Paralympic title since Beijing 2008, world record since 2009 and the world title since 2006. Heading into the European Open, Veraksa is also the defending European champion and finished 2015 with a world leading time of 23.60 seconds.
Matheus Sousa (Brazil)
A double silver medallist from the 2015 World Championships, Sousa will be hoping he can use the home advantage in Rio to secure his first Paralympic medals.
An S11 swimmer, Sousa faces tough competition from the USA’s Paralympic and world champion Bradley Snyder particularly in the 100m and 400m freestyle.
Braeden Jason (Australia)
Still just a teenager, Braeden made an impressive World Championships debut in 2015.
The 17-year-old made it into the finals in all but one of his five events. He also finished 2015 as the world ranked No. 3 in the men’s 400m freestyle S13.
Rebecca Myers (USA)
Myers had an impressive 2015 in the pool, setting three world records at the Worlds and retaining her titles in the 200m individual medley and 400m freestyle S13.
Her performances even before that also impressed the American public and ESPY panel, as Myers was named the Best Female Athlete with a Disability for 2015.
Rio 2016 will be her second Paralympic Games, and the 21-year-old looks primed to improve on her bronze and silver medals from London 2012.
Liesette Bruinsma (Netherlands)
Look out for this debutant in 2016, especially at the European Open where she could make her major international debut.
In December, 15-year-old Bruinsma set three world leading times in as many days at a competition in Amsterdam. Two of those were in events on the Paralympic programme: the 50m and 100m freestyle S11.
Hannah Russell (Great Britain)
Russell remains the favourite in the women’s S12, having won the 50m freestyle at the World Championships and picking up silver in the 100m backstroke.
Heading into the Euros, the 19-year-old is the defending champion in the 100m backstroke, and Paralympic gold is the only thing missing from her collection. Fans will find out in 2016 if the Brit is able to improve on her bronze in the 100m backstroke from London 2012.
The 2016 IPC Swimming European Open Championships take place from 30 April – 7 May and will feature 450 athletes from 50 countries.
As well as the European titles on offer, it will also be the last big chance for swimmers to qualify for Rio 2016.