Tokyo Paralympics: Eight Great Britain athletes to watch at Games

Wheelchair racer David Weir pictured in training
David Weir made his Paralympic debut in Atlanta aged 17 and won his first medals in Athens in 2004
Venue: Tokyo, Japan Dates: 24 August-5 September Time in Tokyo: BST +8
Coverage: Follow on Radio 5 Live and on the BBC Sport website

The Great Britain team for the Tokyo Paralympics will feature more than 220 athletes competing across 19 sports.

After a delay of a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, a mix of experienced campaigners and some exciting newcomers will take to the start line to represent their country on the big stage.

Here, we look at some of those hoping to shine in Tokyo.

David Weir (Para-athletics)

The 42-year-old’s journey to Tokyo – his sixth Games – has not been straightforward.

Five years ago the wheelchair racer went to Rio hoping to emulate his four-gold haul from London 2012, but left without a medal.

Weir alleged he had been accused of throwing a race and was dealing with mental health issues, and announced he would not compete for Great Britain again. That looked like the end, but in 2018 he said he would race in the marathon.

The ‘Weirwolf’ has now also rediscovered his love for track racing and some strong performances in Switzerland earlier this year, including a new personal best in the 1500m, have put him back in the mix.

T54 1500m: Heats – Monday, 30 August; final – Tuesday, 31 August; T54 5,000m: Heats – Friday, 27 August; final – Saturday, 28 August; T54 marathon: Sunday, 5 September

Maisie Summers-Newton (Para-swimming)

Already a world and European champion and a world record holder, the Northampton swimmer only turned 19 last month.

One of the many athletes who was inspired by London 2012, Summers-Newton is now taking on and beating one of the stars of those Games, team-mate Ellie Simmonds.

Swimmer Maisie Summers Newton
Summers-Newton made her GB debut at the 2018 European Championships

The two athletes have the same condition – achondroplasia – and Summers-Newton says that seeing Simmonds in action inspired her.

In 2019, she took Simmonds’ world title in the 200m individual medley and is hoping to do the same in Tokyo where her team-mate is chasing a third Paralympic title in the race.

Summers-Newton will also be a strong contender in the SB6 100m breaststroke.

SM6 200m individual medley: Thursday, 26 August; SB6 100m breaststroke: Saturday, 28 August

Dave Ellis (Para-triathlon)

Ellis, who is visually impaired, started his Paralympic Games journey as a swimmer at the 2008 Games in Beijing, but narrowly missed out on selection for London.

He then switched to triathlon but was devastated when his category was not included in the Rio programme when the sport made its debut.

Dave Ellis and guide Luke Pollard celebrate
Dave Ellis and Luke Pollard started working together in 2019

But since his event was confirmed for Tokyo, he has been focused on Paralympic gold, alongside girlfriend and fellow swimmer-turned-triathlete Claire Cashmore.

The 35-year-old has already claimed titles at European and world level, and he and sighted guide Luke Pollard won at the recent World Triathlon Para Series event in Leeds.

Japan has been a happy hunting ground in the past for Ellis with three wins in Yokohama plus success in Tokyo at the World Cup event in 2019.

Men’s PTVI: Saturday, 28 August

Jaco van Gass (Para-cycling)

It’s going to be a busy period for Jaco van Gass with five races across the track and the road, but he is a man who is not afraid of a challenge.

He was serving in the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan in 2009 when he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. It left him with a collapsed lung and other internal injuries, shrapnel wounds and leg injuries, and he also lost his left arm at the elbow.

Sport was key to his rehab and giving him a new purpose, and the 34-year-old has gone on to be part of a record-breaking team of wounded soldiers who trekked to the North Pole, with Prince Harry joining them for part of the journey, won gold at the Invictus Games, run several marathons, climbed mountains and become a downhill skier.

He narrowly missed selection for Rio but comes to Tokyo as a triple world champion on the track and ready to represent GB once again.

C3 3,000m individual pursuit: Thursday, 26 August; C1-3 1,000m time trial: Friday, 27 August; Mixed C1-5 750m team sprint: Saturday, 28 August; C3 road time trial: Tuesday, 31 August; C3 road race: Thursday, 2 September

Sophie Wells (Para-equestrian)

One of the stalwarts of the British equestrian team since she made her debut in 2009, the 31-year-old goes to Tokyo aiming to add to her medal tally. The Lincolnshire rider was born with amniotic band syndrome, a condition that left her with missing fingers and nerve damage to her legs.

She started dressage aged eight and impressed both in Para and non-disabled competitions, becoming the first Para-rider to compete on a non-disabled championship team at the Young Rider Europeans in 2010 and 2011.

Sophie Wells
Wells will be appearing at her third Paralympics

On her Paralympic debut in London, she claimed team gold and individual and freestyle silvers before another team gold plus individual gold and freestyle silver in Rio.

Wells experienced a set-back in mid-August when her horse C Fatal Attraction, known as Jorge, with whom she has enjoyed European and world success, was ruled out of Tokyo, but she has also been working with her reserve horse Don Cara M, known as Don, since early 2020.

Wells has also been coaching and mentoring young riders and she will be joined on the GB team by one of her proteges, Georgia Wilson, who came in as a late replacement for Sophie Christiansen.

Grade V individual test: Thursday, 26 August; Team test to music: Saturday, 28 August; Grade V freestyle test: Monday, 30 August

Libby Clegg (Para-athletics)

A double gold medal winner in Rio with guide Chris Clarke in the T11 100m and 200m, Clegg has been open about her subsequent mental health struggles, which left her feeling “empty and numb”.

She skipped the 2017 World Championships in London and her progress was also hampered by injuries to herself and her guides.

But she gave birth to son Edward in April 2019 and showed a different side to her character with her appearance on the ITV show Dancing On Ice last year, where she and partner Mark Hanretty finished in third place.

Tokyo will once again be a family affair for Clegg, with younger brother Stephen in with a good a medal chance in the swimming while her partner Dan Powell will be competing in the judo.

T12 200m: Heats – Thursday, 2 September; semi-final – Friday, 3 September; Final – Saturday, 4 September

Beth Munro (Para-taekwondo)

The 28-year-old from Liverpool describes her Paralympic journey as “surreal”.

Born missing her left hand, netball was her sport until she was spotted at a disability sport event in 2019 and asked whether she wanted to try javelin and taekwondo, with Paris 2024 the aim.

The latter is where she found where her talent lay and she moved to the GB training centre in Manchester earlier this year.

Para-triathlete Beth Munro
Munro will be making her Paralympic debut in Tokyo

Her first international bout had high stakes – a place at the Paralympics – but she claimed an emphatic win over Italy’s Sara Enea to book her place at the Games.

Training alongside team-mates Amy Truesdale and Matt Bush in Manchester has helped Munro raise her game. She will certainly be among the least experienced competitors in her event in Tokyo – but she will be hoping to cause a shock.

K44 -58kg: Friday, 3 September

Thomas Young (Para-athletics)

While sport, and athletics in particular, have always been part of Young’s life, he only discovered he was eligible for Para-sport when he was 17.

The 21-year-old from Croydon was diagnosed aged 12 with neurofibromatosis type 1 – a genetic condition that causes tumours, usually non-cancerous, to grow along nerves and in Young’s case, affect his balance and coordination.

Thomas Young
Young has enjoyed a good season so far

He made a big impact on his GB debut at the 2018 Para-athletics European Championships in Berlin, winning gold in both the T38 100m and 200m – something he described as “an amazing feeling”.

Now based in Loughborough and part of a talented sprint group under the tutelage of Joe McDonnell, Young, who is a keen Fulham fan, took silver in the 100m at the 2019 World Championships, edged out by the narrowest of margins by China’s Dening Zhu.

His 2021 season so far has seen him retain his European title in June, just missing out on his personal best, but there is hopefully more to come in Tokyo.

T38 100m: Heats and final – Saturday, 28 August

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