Who are the young athletes snapping at the heels of their more experienced rivals? Which young stars can we expect big things from this year?
Here are 10 of the top rising stars under the age of 21 who could well make a big impression in 2017 – and at the World Para Athletics Championships in London, Great Britain, this summer.
1. Hunter Woodhall (T43, USA)
The American finished on the podium at Rio 2016, claiming 200m T44 silver and 400m T44 bronze at his first ever Games in a highly competitive class. Only 17-years-old and with less than two years’ international experience to his name, the double leg amputee looks to have a bright future ahead of him.
2. Petrucio Ferreira (T47, Brazil)
At just 20-years-old Ferreira has already made a name for himself on the track. The Brazilian saw off his more experienced teammate Yohansson Nascimento as well as the reigning world champion Michal Derus of Poland when he stormed to gold at Rio 2016 in the 100m T47. With two world records to his name, a first world title surely beckons this year.
3. Ntando Mahlangu (T42, RSA)
Winner of the Newcomer of the Year award at the 2016 South African Sports Awards, Mahlangu may be only 15-years-old but he’s taken to competing on the international stage with ease. The young South African double leg amputee races in the T42 sprints and, after clinching 200m silver at Rio 2016, he will be determined to keep piling the pressure on Great Britain’s world and Paralympic champion Richard Whitehead.
4. Michael Brannigan (T20, USA)
The American dominated the field in the men’s 1,500m T20 at Rio 2016 after a terrific 12 months which saw him also win the world title in 2015. At 20-years-old he has time on his hands to get even better – and he will undoubtedly be the man to beat in T20 middle distance races this year.
5. Brayden Davidson (T36, Australia)
The 19-year-old Australian long jumper got the better of a stellar field at Rio 2016, leaping a new regional record of 5.62m to take the gold medal ahead of the likes of 2012 champion Roman Pavlyk of Ukraine.
6. Alexa Halko (T34, USA)
The American is fast developing in to a serious contender in the women’s T34 class, which has been dominated by British multiple world and Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft in recent years. The 16-year-old briefly held the 800m T34 world record last year and clinched two silver and one bronze at Rio 2016.
7. Kare Adenegan (T34, GB)
If Halko poses a threat to Cockroft’s crown, then watch out too for another talented teenager, Kare Adenegan. The Briton, 16, also reached the podium at Rio 2016, winning one silver and two bronze. She is also the only person to have beaten Cockroft in the last seven years, getting the better of her British teammate over 400m in 2015.
8. Deja Young (T47, USA)
Young, 20, was quick to shine in the women’s T47 sprints at Rio 2016 as Cuba’s experienced Paralympian Yunidis Castillo was forced to withdraw from the finals due to injury. Young stepped up with impressive performances on the track, winning double sprint gold, and she will be determined to hold on to that top spot this year.
9. Noelle Lenihan (F38, Ireland)
The 17-year-old Irish thrower has gone from strength to strength in recent months, winning European gold and Paralympic bronze last year after making her senior international debut in 2015. Lenihan, who competes in the discus F38, won the European title with a new world record and is major threat to the likes of China’s F37 thrower Mi Na.
10. Anna Grimaldi (T47, New Zealand)
The 19-year-old long jumper smashed her personal best as she beat a field including Australia’s reigning world champion and world record holder Carlee Beattie with her final leap of the competition at Rio 2016. The teenager is clearly capable of handling the pressure on the biggest stage of all and poses a serious threat to Beattie’s hopes of retaining the world title this July.
Buy tickets for the London 2017 World Para Athletics World Championships here.