Paralympic Games: 10 athletes to watch

Around 4,000 athletes from across the world are converging on London for the 2012 Paralympic Games and 289 of them will represent Great Britain. We've selected 10 Team GB competitors who could set off a gold rush.

Ellie Simmonds1. Ellie Simmonds - swimming

Seventeen-year-old Eleanor Simmonds began swimming with her local club at five. At 13, she became one of Britain's most successful Paralympians, winning gold in both the 100m and 400m Freestyle at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games.

She's already won BBC Young Sports Personality of the year (2008) and an MBE (2009), so rest assured, she's used to coming out on top. 

Tracey Hinton2. Tracey Hinton - athletics

Tracey made her debut at the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics. The sprinter then proceeded to make her mark in Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008) garnering three silvers and three bronzes along the way.

Tracey (who is blind) trains six days a week with her guide runner Steffan Hughes who acts as her eyes during a race. It's a winning partnership so expect great things from this duo. 

Hannah Russell3. Hannah Russell - swimming

At the British Paralympic trials earlier this year, Hannah set a European record in the 100m backstroke and came away with an impressive five qualifying times. Her performance cements last year's achievements at the European Championships in Berlin where she took silver in the 100m backstroke and bronze in the 100m butterfly.

The 16 year old who combines swimming with school will be hoping her Paralympic debut continues her winning streak. 

Tom Aggar4. Tom Aggar - rowing

Tom was a squad player for premiership rugby team the Saracens when during a night out he fell, fractured his back and paralysed his legs.

He took up rowing to keep fit and after five years of racing remains unbeaten. Since winning gold in the men's single sculls in Beijing in 2008, he's looking forward to repeating the feat on home turf. 


Martine Wright5. Martine Wright - sitting volleyball

Martine lost her legs in the 7/7 bombings in 2005. She joined a sitting volleyball team after trying the sport at a Paralympics taster day and was overjoyed to hear she'd been picked to represent Britain at the 2012 Paralympics.

"We might not be the most experienced team," she's said of the British sitting volleyball team, who played their first international match in 2010, "but we can make sure we are the fittest and the strongest. With home advantage, anything can happen."


Alexandra Rickham6-7. Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell - sailing

Jamaican-born Alexandra was always extremely sporty. After breaking her back in a diving accident, she tried every sport she could from wheelchair rugby to skiing, but it was sailing that gripped her.

Niki Birrell grew up in a family of sailors and has previously enjoyed sailing success with his brother. The two teamed up in 2007 and a year later came 5th in the SKUD 18 at the Beijing Paralympics.

Since then they've won four world titles and this year alone scooped two silver medals at events in Hyeres and Miami. After losing out on a podium place in 2008, the duo have their sights set firmly on gold. 

David Weir8. David Weir - wheelchair racing

Growing up, David would sit on the playground floor to act as goalie during football games, clamber up trees and join in with whatever else his friends were up to, even though his legs did not work like theirs. In his teens he played wheelchair hockey, basketball and cricket. But he found his niche when he raced at the 1992 IWAS World Junior Games. 

Since then he's won two golds in Beijing and this year equalled Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson's record of six wins at the London Wheelchair Marathon. This summer marks his fourth appearance at the Paralympic Games and he'll be looking for a medal haul as he competes in the 800m, 1500m, 5,000m and marathon. 

Peter Norfolk9. Peter Norfolk - wheelchair tennis

Nicknamed The Quadfather, Peter became a wheelchair tennis player at 30, after seeing a demo at Stoke Mandeville hospital. He competes in the quad division, which means he competes against other players with a disability in at least three limbs.

He won Britain's first Paralympic medal in tennis when he took gold in the quad singles in Athens in 2004. He claimed another gold four years later in Beijing and bronze in the doubles. After winning both the singles and the doubles events in the pre-Paralympic test event in May this year, he looks set for the top prize at the 2012 Paralympic Games. 

Nigel Murray10. Nigel Murray - Boccia

Nigel is the world's best player at Boccia, a sport similar to bowls that's generally played by people with cerebral palsy or motor disabilities. He is a seven-time British Champion, a 12-time National Champion and is currently ranked number one in the world.

After captaining the Beijing team to gold, he plans to make London his final Paralympic Games. Brace yourselves for a golden exit.


Last updated: about 3 years ago