While people may well recognise household sporting names such as Usain Bolt or Chris Hoy from the Olympics, sometimes I get the feeling that equally talented athletes in the Paralympics are overlooked by the general public.
With that in mind, here are some of the most promising athletes in the run-up to the 2012 Paralympics.
China dominated the 2008 Summer Paralympics with 211 medals, with stunning performances from many athletes.
Especially interesting were Guo Wei, who won gold in his category in Discus, Javelin and Shot put, and intends to compete again in 2012, and the Chinese 4×100 metre teams, were strong in various categories.
Keep an eye on their relay teams, throwing athletes, and on the blind judo.
Needless to say, as host country Great Britain will be looking to do well. As the second placed team in the 2008 Paralympics, they might even be looking to challenge China for the top spot.
If so, they face a stiff challenge, but if they can keep competitors like Darren Kenny, David Roberts and Lee Pearson doing so exceptionally well (with three to four golds each), they might stand a chance.
Great Britain should do well in the swimming, cycling and equestrian events.
The US of A fielded a team for the 2008 Paralympics that included 16 veterans.
Popovich has since retired, but watch out for Jessica Long, she could do even better this time around.
South Africa have some of the most famous Paralympics competitors there have ever been.
Oscar Pistorius, also known as the “Blade Runner”, is a forceful and charismatic character whose understated confidence is backed up by track results. He’s faced challenges over the years from people unable to believe that his speed is entirely natural, and is an excellent ambassador for disabled sports.
Another great athlete of theirs, Natalie du Toit, was accepted onto Time’s list of 100 Olympic Athletes to Watch at number 100 back in 2008. Not content with winning five paralympic golds, she also became the first amputee to qualify for the Olympic Games, finishing 16th in the 10K swim.
Who I’ll Be Watching
While all the events at the Paralympics promise to be incredibly competitive and exciting to watch, I’ll go out of my way to see the so-called “fastest man on no legs”, Oscar Pistorius. As a runner, he is truly world class, and I can only hope the controversies over his entry to the Olympics don’t obscure his performance in the Paralympics.
As well as the rest of the incredible athletes on this list, I’ll keep an eye on the Ukraine and Australia for emerging talents and personalities. They’ve given us some great competitors in the past, ranking fourth and fifth respectively in the medal tables for 2008, and I’ve no doubt that London 2012 will continue the trend.
I’ll see you there!