Sport Week: Ones to Watch for Para athleticsFrom Paralympic champions to rising stars, check out the top athletes heading into Tokyo 2020 21 May 2021
A new generation of Para athletics stars has been emerging over the last few years. Tokyo 2020 will see them in action together with Paralympic champions making a comeback to major events.
Here are some of the names to keep an eye on!
Omara Durand (CUB)
With five Paralympic and 11 world titles to her name, Durand has dominated the tracks since her international debut over a decade ago. The Cuban currently holds the world records in the 100m (11.40), 200m (23.03) and 400m (51.77) T12, which makes her the world's fastest Paralympian. Her last loss came at the Beijing 2008 Games and is a heavy favourite again to extend her winning streak in Tokyo.
Petrucio Ferreira (BRA)
Tokyo 2020 can expect more speed and more records from Ferreira, who has shown no signs of slowing down since setting a world record of 10.42 in the men's 100m T46/47 at the Dubai 2019 World Championships. The world's fastest male Paralympian wants to add more golds to his Paralympic medal tally after taking 100m gold, and 4x100m and 400m T47 silvers at Rio 2016.
Ambra Sabatini (ITA)
As one of the rising talents in the Para athletics world, the 19-year-old Italian burst onto the international scene this year with a world record of 14.59 in the women's 100m T63 at the Dubai 2021 Grand Prix. Sabatini, who lost her left leg in a traffic accident less than two years ago on her way to an athletics practice, still comes into Tokyo as an underdog but may very well leave as a Paralympic champion.
Markus Rehm (GER)
The three-time Paralympic champion long jumper is going to Tokyo with gold and a new world record on his mind - he currently holds the 8.48m one in the men's T64. One of the top international stars in the Paralympic Movement, the German has most recently extended his unbeaten run with a golden crown from the 2019 World Championships.
Raoua Tlili (TUN)
Tunisia's four-time Paralympic champion has been the world's best in women's F41 events for more than 10 years and will again start as a strong favourite for gold in the shot put and discus at Tokyo 2020. In 2019, Tlili completed the double-double for a third successive World Championships as she defended her titles in both events from Doha 2015 and London 2017.
Tomoki Sato (JPN)
Nicknamed Tomochan, Sato took on the sport inspired by the London 2012 Paralympics that he had watched on TV. Eight years later, he will be competing at home as one of Japan’s biggest gold medal hopes. Sato left Rio 2016 with two silvers in the 400m T52 and 1,500m T52. But since then, he has taken gold in both events at the London 2017 and Dubai 2019 World Championships.
Hannah Cockroft (GBR)
Hurricane Hannah became a national star after taking two gold medals at her first Paralympic Games in London in 2012. Since then, she has added other three Paralympic golds to her tally in Rio. The class T34 wheelchair racer has tough competition at home with newcomer Kare Adenegan, but showed she is hungry for more following her two gold medals at the Dubai 2019 Worlds – and a new world record in the 100m T34.
Tatyana McFadden (USA)
One of the best female wheelchair racers of all time, McFadden has 17 Paralympic medals to her name, including seven golds, since her debut at Athens 2004. She seeks to win at least five more in Tokyo to overtake Canadian legend Chantal Petitclerc as the female track & field athlete with more medals ever. She also holds 23 marathon titles and was one of the Para athletes featured in Netflix's ground-breaking Paralympic documentary Rising Phoenix.
Jaryd Clifford (AUS)
The Australian made his Paralympic debut at only 17 years old in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016, finishing seventh in the 1,500m and 5,000m T13. Five years on, he comes to Tokyo as the man to beat in the middle-distance T13 races after winning gold in both events at Dubai 2019, as well as setting a new world record in the 1,500m.
Hongzhuan Zhou (CHN)
A legend in the sport having dominated the T53 class for over a decade, the Chinese aims to end her career on a high note at the 2020 Paralympic Games. Over a glittering career, Hongzhuan has amassed 11 Paralympic medals, including six golds, and seven world titles across sprint and middle-distance races. However, the 32-year-old is aware she needs to perform at her very best in Tokyo after being overtaken by younger athletes to the finish line at the 2019 World Championships, ending the competition with 'just' two silvers and one bronze.