Paralympic Games
24 August - 5 September 2021

Tokyo 2020 Day 9: Ones to Watch

01 Sep 2021
Hongzhuan Zhou of China prepares to compete in the Women's 800m - T53 Final at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
China's Hongzhuan Zhou has 13 Paralympic medals to her tally and wants to win her third in the Tokyo 2020 Games
ⒸGetty Images

Experienced athletes like Chinese Hongzhuan Zhou, who has dominated the T53 athletics class for more than a decade, and Cuba's multi-medallist sprinter Omara Durand, who has already won a gold in Tokyo 2020, will be on stage again in this day 9 of the Games.

On the other hand, it will be time to see newcomers such as 18-year-old Peter Pal Kiss from Hungary, who won the KL1 Canoe World Championships two years ago, when he was just 16.

Other new stars, but to the Games, will be the para taekwondo participants, who will be in their first Paralympics. French Lucas Mazur won the 2019 World Championships in his class SL4 and is one of the favourites, while Indonesia's Leani Ratri Oktila was crowned Female Para Badminton Player of 2019 and won 12 golds in that season.

Joackim Norberg (SWE) - shooting

The Swede exploded onto the international scene at the 2014 World Championships with a double win in P3 (mixed 25m pistol SH1) and P5 (mixed 10m air pistol SH1) in only his second year of competitive shooting. His biggest career achievement came when he captured silver in P3 at Rio 2016. The athlete nicknamed ‘hot shot’ has remained a constant podium threat in the pistol discipline. 

Vitor Goncalves Tavares (BRA) - para badminton

Known as "Vitinho", the 22-year-old practised football and mountain bike before getting to know para badminton at age 17. After winning the first tournament that he ever participated, he decided to focus only on the sport. Since then, his main accomplishments were the gold medal in the 2019 Para PanAm, in Lima, and the third place in the singles, doubles and mixed doubles SS6 events in the 2019 World Championships in Basel, Switzerland. His dream is to win a gold medal in the SH6 tournament in Tokyo.

Lucas Mazur (FRA) - para badminton

Mazur strengthened his hold on the top spot in the men’s SL4 world ranking, after winning gold at the Basel 2019 World Championships. It was a bittersweet victory, as his Indian opponent Tarun Tarun retired after twisting his knee. The two have been back-and-forth since a Worlds showdown in 2015, when Mazur took silver. But now the Frenchman has the momentum and will be ready for his toughest test yet at Tokyo 2020.

Leani Ratri Oktila (INA) - para badminton

Crowned Badminton World Federation Female Para Badminton Player of 2019, Leani Ratri Oktila will be one of the hot favourites going into Tokyo 2020. She claimed her first world women’s singles SL4 title in 2019, in a season that saw her win 12 gold, two silver and one bronze medals. Few would bet against her adding to her impressive medal tally in Japan.

Curtis McGrath (AUS)  - para canoe

Having lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device (IED) while serving in the Australian army in Afghanistan in 2004, McGrath told his fellow soldiers he would be at the Paralympics one day. Fast forward to Rio 2016 and not only did he compete, he won gold in the men’s KL2. He has also been undefeated at the event at the World Championship stage since 2016 with four titles. And with Tokyo in his sights, he will be looking to defend his KL2 title and win gold in the newly added VL3, which he has proven himself by winning with five world titles.

Peter Pal Kiss (HUN) - para canoe

Aged just 16, the Hungarian surprised Italian world champion Esteban Farias to win the men’s KL1 gold in front of a home crowd at the Szegad 2019 World Championships. Now 18, Kiss is the newest and most anticipated talent in the sport heading into Tokyo, where he will be the golden favourite. But Kiss has only competed in three ICF events in his career and will have to handle the new pressure awaiting him in Tokyo.

Emma Wiggs (GBR) - para canoe

Tokyo 2020 will be Wiggs’ third Paralympic Games. She competed in sitting volleyball at London 2012, before switching to Para canoe at Rio 2016 to take gold in the women’s KL2. Wiggs had been unmatched on the kayak until 2018 when compatriot Charlotte Henshaw served spoils at the World Championships. But Wiggs has diverted her attention to the va’a boats, where she is a three-time world champion and has the strongest chance of winning Paralympic gold.  

Bolor-Erdene Ganbat (MGL) - para taekwondo

Few athletes rise to the occasion like Mongolia’s No. 1-ranked Ganbat (portrayed below kicking). In fact, there was a time when the four-time world champion was considered unbeatable. That all changed when he was shocked at the 2017 IWAS World Games final by Russia’s Daniil Sidorov in the men’s -61kg K44. He has won only half of his tournaments since – although he has never failed to reach the podium – developing fierce rivalries with Turkey’s dynamic duo of Mahmut Bozteke and Ali Can Ozcan. Ganbat bested Ozcan at the 2019 World Championships on the way to his fourth straight title in what is widely considered ‘the greatest fight in Para taekwondo history’, before Ozcan stopped him at the 2019 Asian Championships to deny him a fifth title. The once inevitable Ganbat has some things left to prove as he again fell at this summer’s Asian Championships, this time to Bozteke. Still, he remains one of the most technically gifted fighters in the sport and one of Mongolia’s top medal threats in Tokyo.

Angelica Espinoza Carranza (PER) - para taekwondo

There might be no fighter on a hotter streak right now than Espinoza. At her home Parapan American Games at Lima 2019, she provided the hosts with one of the event’s enduring memories by winning gold in the women’s -49kg K44. She continues to show her Paralympic bona-fides by besting some of the division’s top athletes on her way to winning five of her last six tournaments, including denying No. 1-ranked former world champion Enkhtuya Khurelbaatar of Mongolia a fifth straight Asian title with a convincing 28-4 win at the 2021 Asian Open Championships. 

Omara Durand (CUB) - athletics

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.

Hongzhuan Zhou (CHN) - athletics

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.