Paralympic Games
24 August - 5 September 2021

Tokyo 2020 Day 8: Ones to Watch

Mauricio Valencia (athletics), Luca Mazzone (road cycling) and several para badminton stars are ready to shine 31 Aug 2021
a male wheelchair athlete with a gold medal round his neck raises his arms
Colombia's Valencia is the clear favourite in the men's javelin F34
ⒸLima 2019

There is still a lot of great athletes to see in action in Japan. This Wednesday, the program features names like Colombian Mauricio Valencia, defending Paralympic champion and world record holder in the men's javelin F34. Another name is road cyclist Luca Mazzone, from Italy, who will be running his fifth Paralympics - the second as a cyclist.

Several para badminton stars are to be watched on day 8 of Tokyo 2020, as the sport makes its debut in the Paralympic Games programme. Among the names to pay attention are Qu Zimo (China), Great Britain's Daniel Bethell and Japanese Sarina Satomi, a local hope for medals. 

Mauricio Valencia  (COL) - athletics

As the reigning Paralympic champion and world record holder, Colombia's Valencia is the favourite to gold In the men’s javelin F34. The 33-year-old from Cali is the back-to-back world champion from London 2017 and Dubai 2019. Valencia set the second-best mark of the year at the Dubai World Para Athletics Grand Prix in February, while his compatriot Diego Meneses Medina threw the javelin even further at the Tunis GP. 

Luca Mazzone (ITA) - road cycling

Tokyo 2020 will be Mazzone’s fifth Paralympics but second as a cyclist. He won Paralympic medals in swimming but his first golds came in cycling at Rio 2016, where he won the time trial and silver in the road race H2. He also helped Italy celebrate gold in the team relay, and the Italian is not slowing down, having won a pair of world titles in 2019. In Japan, he already conquered silver in the men's H2 time trial.

Qu Zimo (CHN) - para badminton

Ranked No. 1 in the world, Qu had a sensational 2019, becoming world champion in the men’s singles WH1 and doubles WH1-2. He finished the year with triple crowns (singles, doubles and mixed doubles) at the China and Turkey Para Badminton Internationals. On top of all that, he is still a rising talent, turning 20 just before the Opening Ceremony of Tokyo 2020.

Jessica Long (USA) - swimming

The US superstar is the only one of the current top five female Para swimming medallists still competing. The 23-time medallist and 13-time Paralympic champion in the S8 could move as high as second in the top five if she can add to her 13 gold, six silver and four bronze medals in Tokyo.  Born in Siberia with a rare condition that meant her legs had to be amputated, she was adopted by a US family from a Russian orphanage when she was a year old.  At 12, Long made her international debut at the Athens 2004 Games as the youngest on the US team and won three gold medals to showcase her potential. Tokyo 2020 will be her fifth Games.

Daniel Bethell (GBR) - para badminton

Bethell competes in SL3 men’s singles and doubles and is a three-time European champion. The left-hander is currently ranked second in the world, with his last major victory coming in the Japan International in December 2019. His toughest match will be India’s Pramod Bhagat, who spoiled Bethell’s golden hopes in a remarkable comeback at the 2019 Worlds in Basel, Switzerland. Expect the Brit to come back stronger.

Sarina Satomi (JPN) - para badminton

One year into the sport, Satomi was selected to play at her first international competition in Thailand in 2018 and since then she has not looked back. At first, she thought of herself as a doubles player, joining forces with Yuma Yamakazi in the women’s WH1-2 as the top ranked duo. However, she has grown a liking to the singles side, seeing her potential with the gold medal at Basel 2019 and the possibility of winning double gold in front of a home audience this summer. 

Markus Rehm (GER) - athletics

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.

Grigorios Polychronidis (GRE)  - boccia

Polychronidis, who also goes by Greg, took up boccia with the dream of participating in his home Paralympics at Athens 2004. That dream became a reality after he found himself in the quarter-finals of the individual BC3 event in Athens. But reaching the Paralympics was not the end goal. In the next three Paralympics, Polychronidis has felt the heartbreak of missing out on an individual title. The Greek finally secured his first major individual gold at the 2018 World Championships, where he beat South Korea’s Howon Jeong, the very opponent whom he lost to in the gold medal match at the 2016 Paralympics. After a European title in 2019, the veteran athlete has experience on his side as he targets Paralympic glory.