Ten Para athletics rising stars of 2016

As the Para athletics season draws to a close it is time to look back to see who has made a big impression in 2016. 20 Oct 2016
Noelle Lenihan of Ireland competes in the women's discus F38 final at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

Noelle Lenihan is a double world silver medallist

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As the Para athletics season draws to a close it is time to look back to see who has made a big impression in 2016.

Here are 10 top young athletes, under 23 years-old, who impressed this year – and who we can expect to see making their mark once again in 2017 when they will going for world gold at London 2017.


1. Liam Malone (NZL T43 sprinter – born 1993)

Twelve months ago the New Zealander finished fifth in the 100m T44 at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar; he was placed sixth over 200m. He had yet to break the 11 second mark in the shorter sprint, while in the 200m, he finished behind US champion Richard Browne (T44), with four other T43 sprinters ahead of him.

But Rio 2016 saw Malone break new ground as he qualified fastest in his 100m T44 heat with 10.90 before going on to win silver in the final behind defending champion Jonnie Peacock.

In the 200m T44 he went one better, sealing gold and three days later he added the 400m T44 title with a new Paralympic record.


2. Hunter Woodhall (USA T43 sprinter – born 1999)

Woodhall showed terrific form early in 2016. He won the Utah State Championship 400m title with a world lead time, before travelling to Berlin, Germany in June for the IPC Athletics Grand Prix where he came first in the 200m and finished runner-up behind Germany’s world champion David Behre over 400m.

In Rio, Woodhall finished just behind Malone to clinch 200m T44 silver, while over one lap he took bronze – with just 0.5 seconds separating the top three. The rivalry between Woodhall and Malone in 2017 should be thrilling.


3. Ntando Mahlangu (RSA T42 sprinter - born 2002)

The South African was one of the youngest Para athletes at Rio 2016 but he certainly didn’t let that get to him as he won silver behind experienced Briton Richard Whitehead in the 200m T42 – the only two sprinters to go below 24 seconds.

In fact Mahlangu had raced Whitehead at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix Final in London, Great Britain, in July – he finished second there too. Still only 14 years-old, he has a promising future on the track.


4. Leilia Adzhametova (UKR T13 sprinter – born 1994)

Adzhametova announced her arrival on the world stage when she smashed South African Ilse Hayes’ 100m T13 world record at May’s Nottwil Grand Prix. The 22-year-old went on to clinch the sprint double in Berlin, Germany, and arrived in Rio as a real contender for gold. She succeeded – knocking a further 0.03 seconds off her world best for good measure as she got the better of Hayes on the biggest stage of all. The Ukrainian also won bronze over 400m.


5. Ihor Tsvietov (UKR T35 sprinter – born 1994)

Another Ukrainian making a mark at Rio 2016, Tsvietov clinched double sprint gold as he dominated the T35 class. The 22-year-old set a new world record (12.22) in the 100m T35 heats before winning the final with ease. The 200m T35 also went his way with a Paralympic record (25.11).


6. Noelle Lenihan (IRL F38 thrower – born 1999)

The Irish teenager only made her international debut at last year’s World Championships, where she won discus F38 silver behind China’s F37 thrower Na Mi with a new world record in her class. Lenihan has continued to take the international stage by storm, winning European gold with yet another world record (32.14m) in Grosseto, Italy in June, before going on to secure Paralympic bronze in Brazil.


7. Anna Grimaldi (NZL T47 long jumper – born 1997)

The 19-year-old saw off a highly talented and experienced field to win her first Paralympic title at Rio 2016 – and her country’s first women’s field event gold in 28 years. Grimaldi, who entered the Games ranked number three in the world, leapt to a new personal best of 5.62m, beating Australia’s world champion Carlee Beattie and Cuba’s London 2012 triple gold medallist Yunidis Castillo in the process.


8. Gianfranco Iannotta (USA T52 wheelchair racer – born 1994)

For the last four years T52 racing has been dominated by one Para athlete - US wheelchair racer Ray Martin. No longer – this year Iannotta got the better of his teammate at the Nottwil Grand Prix in Switzerland, winning the 100m T52 to go top of the world rankings. He went on to defeat defending champion Martin at Rio 2016, winning Paralympic gold in the 100m as well as bronze over 400m.


9. James Turner (AUS T36 middle distance – born 1996)

One Rio 2016 race not to be forgotten was the men’s 800m T36. Turner, who played Para football up until 2015, was an unknown quantity when he lined up against a field including Great Britain’s two-time world champion Paul Blake. But he blew the field away, quickly establishing a massive lead and storming home to knock nearly three seconds off the previous world record.


10. Michael Brannigan (USA T20 middle distance – born 1996)

The American has looked untouchable this year, with impressive victories at the Berlin Grand Prix as well as at the US Paralympic Trials, and a sub-four minute mile (3:57.58) in the USA. World champion in 2015, Brannigan added the Paralympic title in 2016 with a dominant performance and will surely be the man to beat come the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships in London, Great Britain in nine months’ time.