Rio Paralympics 2016: ones to watch

6 September 2016

When people think of the Paralympic Games, most think primarily of the fantastic achievements of David Weir and Ellie Simmonds. But Rio 2016 will see new stars illuminate the stage. With anticipation growing, Barney Cullum highlights a few to look out for.

Kadeena Cox — athletics and cycling

Kadeena CoxA newcomer to the scene since the London Games, Kadeena looks set to be the breakthrough British star in Brazil.

The Leeds-based athlete has multiple sclerosis, a condition synonymous with fatigue. Yet Kadeena is targeting a place in history by becoming the first Paralympian since 1988 to medal in two different events. 

'I believe in pushing the boundaries in everything I do.' — Kadeena

A gold in the cycling and a medal of any colour on the athletics track would be an achievement to match anything we can expect to witness in Rio. A world record holder in both events, she has every chance.

Ryan Cowling — wheelchair rugby

Ryan Cowling (photo credit: onEdition)'I fully expect to be the oldest debutante in Rio,' the 40-year-old Welshman readily admits.

A wheelchair user for 22 years since an accident in the army, Ryan came to professional sport late after an interesting career teaching other wheelchair users how to scuba dive in Egypt.

'Scuba diving was great, but having a family makes you reflect on what you can be doing, and what you should be doing.' — Ryan

Ryan was avidly involved in sport at school but then left it behind for two decades. Since linking up with the Paralympics GB ‘murderball’ team last year, the British squad have lifted a global title in a test event for Rio. They are among the favourites for the real thing.

Jordanne Whiley — wheelchair tennis

Jordanne Whiley wearing Leonard Cheshire sponsored shirt at WimbledonThose who only tune into disability sport once every four years will have missed the dizzying heights Jordanne has reached since securing a bronze medal at the London Games.

With nine grand slam titles to her name, the reigning Wimbledon doubles champion has become Britain’s most successful tennis player of all time. Jordanne is going for gold in both singles and doubles in Rio.

Kare Adenegan — athletics

Kare is not only the youngest member of Paralympics GB’s athletics team, she hasn't even taken her GCSEs yet!

Kare’s claim to fame lies in becoming the first person to ever defeat Hannah Cockroft in a professional race — an unbeaten record the wheelchair racing legend held for some seven years.

'At school I was told I couldn’t do sport for health and safety reasons.

'I lost a lot of confidence and self-esteem as I felt it wasn’t for me. But then I watched Hannah at the London Games.' — Kare

Kare hopes Rio 2016 will have a similar impact on changing perceptions of what disabled people can do.

'It can show teachers and children that there are opportunities out there and that sport is for everyone.' — Kare

Richard Whitehead — athletics

One to watch, but for a different reason than the rest of the cast. Not a new name, but at 40 years old, this may be the last chance to tune in and watch arguably the greatest Paralympian these shores have produced on the biggest stage.

The first amputee to break the three-hour mark in the marathon, Richard recently broke the 200m world record — his event for Rio — at London’s Anniversary Games.

'I do what I do because I love it.' — Richard

The breadth of his achievements mean he deserves a level of recognition to match that afforded the likes of Mo Farrah and Jessica Ennis-Hill. Maybe this year it will come.

And internationally…

Jarryd Wallace (USA) — athletics

The T44 (single amputee) men’s 100 metres is expected to be the most exciting and competitive event of Rio 2016.

Jonnie Peacock secured gold in 2012, swept to victory by a fervent home crowd on 'Thriller Thursday'. However, American Jarryd Wallace came out on top at the recent London Anniversary Games.

Should Wallace scoop the blue riband event, the 26-year-old become one of the faces of the games.

US state broadcaster NBC only screened six hours of coverage in 2012, but have pledged 70 hours out of Brazil this time around. Wallace's showdown with reigning champion Peacock — not to mention Brazil’s Alan Oliveia — will top their bill.

Barney Cullum is an external communications officer for Leonard Cheshire Disability and a freelance journalist. A version of this article can also be found on PosAbility.

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