Athletes to Watch at Rio 2016 Paralympics
Published: 2016-01-15 - Updated: 2021-11-25
Author: International Paralympic Committee (IPC) | Contact: paralympic.org
Synopsis: The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, which run from 7th to the 18th of September 2016, will see up to 4,350 athletes from around 170 countries compete in 528 medal events across 22 different sports.
With Rio 2016 fast approaching, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) names its "Ones to Watch" athletes for September's Paralympic Games.
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, which run from 7th to the 18th of September 2016, will see up to 4,350 athletes from around 170 countries compete in 528 medal events across 22 different sports. The Ones to Watch athletes looking to make an impact on the biggest stage of all in 2016 are as follows:
- Wheelchair Tennis
- Wheelchair Rugby
- Wheelchair fencing
- Football 5-a-side
- Football 7-a-side
- Wheelchair basketball
- Table tennis
- Sitting volleyball
David Drahoninsky (CZE) - Having won silver and bronze medals at previous World Championships, Drahoninsky finally claimed his first world title in 2015 by winning the men's W1 compound category. The world No.1 was a silver medalist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games but won gold at Beijing 2008.
Ouk Soo Lee (KOR) - The 1996 Paralympic champion returned to form in 2015 winning the world title in the men's compound open. The world No.5 made his Paralympic debut at Barcelona 1992 but has not won a Paralympic medal since Sydney 2000.
Matt Stutzman (USA) - The "Armless Archer" won silver at London 2012 in the men's individual compound open. In December 2015 he hit a target from 310 yards, breaking the longest Guinness-ratified distance by any athlete or individual in the world.
Zahra Nemati (IRI) - After becoming the first Iranian woman to win a Paralympic gold with success at London 2012, Nemati is aiming to compete in both Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games having already secured qualification slots for both events.
Eleonora Sarti (ITA) - The world No.1 and world record holder won one gold and two bronze medals at the 2015 World Archery Para Championships just two years after making her international breakthrough. Her 2015 world title came in the women's compound open.
Hwa Sook Lee (KOR) - The Beijing 2008 Paralympic champion in the women's individual recurve standing was a team bronze medalist at the 2014 2015 World Archery Para Championships. She made her international debut in 2001 and has been a regular model contender ever since.
Shingo Kunieda (JPN) - The most successful man to play wheelchair tennis won three singles Grand Slam titles in 2015, finished the year as world No.1 and lost just two matches all season. At Rio 2016 he will be looking for his third successive Paralympic singles title.
Stephane Houdet (FRA) - The former world No.1 is gearing up for his third Paralympics in Rio where he will be looking to improve on the singles silver medal he won at London 2012. In 2015 he won two doubles Grand Slam titles with victory at the Australian Open and US Open.
Gustavo Fernandez (ARG) - Consistently ranked amongst the world's best players, Fernandez won his first doubles Grand Slam title in 2015 with victory at Wimbledon. He also retained his Parapan American Games singles title at Toronto 2015 and won doubles gold with compatriot Ezequiel Casco.
Yui Kamiji (JPN) - Kamiji topped the world rankings in 2014 and completed the doubles Grand Slam with British partner Jordanne Whiley. Her 2015 singles form was mixed. She was Australian Open runner-up, reached the Roland Garros semi-finals and lost in the US Open final to Whiley.
Jiske Griffioen (NED) - In 2015 Griffioen established herself as the world's No. 1 winning two out of three singles Grand Slams. She won the Australian Open and months later Roland Garros. Rio 2016 will be her fourth Paralympic Games, having made her first appearance at Athens 2004.
Aniek van Koot (NED) - She finished 2015 as the world No.2 behind Griffioen who beat her in final at Roland Garros and Australian Open semi-finals. At London 2012 her first Paralympics, she won silver in both the singles and doubles.
Dylan Alcott (AUS) - Alcott toppled David Wagner as the world No.1 in the quads division after beating the US player to the Australian and US Open titles. He is a former wheelchair basketball player who was part of the Australian gold medal winning team at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.
David Wagner (USA) - Rio 2016 will be Wagner's fourth Paralympic Games having made his debut in Athens in 2004. In his three previous Games, he won three gold medals in the quads division - all in doubles. Up until 2015 he was the world No. 1 but has slipped down a spot since the emergence of Australia's Dylan Alcott.
Masaki Fujita (JPN) - At Rio 2016, Japan's Masaki Fujita will be looking to improve on the time trial bronze medal he won at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. In 2015 he won the world title in the men's road race C3 and took time trial silver at one of the World Cups.
Israel Hilario Rimas (PER) - Rimas is aiming to win Peru's first Paralympic medal for 12 years at Rio 2016. In 2015 he won the road race C2 world title and took bronze in the time trial. He made the podium at all four UCI World Cups last year and finished with a career high third in the world rankings.
Alex Zanardi (ITA) - One of the stars of London 2012 after winning two Paralympic gold medals, Zanardi was in superb form in 2015 winning world titles in the time trial and road race events in Switzerland. His rivalry with South Africa's Ernst van Dyk and the Netherlands' Tim de Vries will be one to watch at Rio 2016.
Alyda Norbruis (NED) - Norbruis was the star of the 2015 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships winning three gold medals in the C2 class. The Dutch rider secured victories in the 500m time trial, 3km pursuit and scratch race. Rio 2016 will be her second Paralympic Games, having won silver in the 500m time trial at London 2012.
Iwona Podkoscielna (POL) - Podkoscielna is one of the world's best road tandem riders and finished top of the world rankings in 2015. The highlight for the Polish rider was double gold at the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships which added to her three World Cup wins from earlier in the year. Rio 2016 will be her first Paralympic Games.
Carol Cooke (AUS) - Cooke won gold at London 2012 in the mixed time trial T1-2 and has won multiple wold titles over the years. In 2015 she retained her time trial rainbow jersey but had to settle for silver in the road race behind the USA's Jill Walsh. She topped the podium in four World Cup events in 2015.
Sarah Storey (GBR) - After winning four golds at London 2012, Storey is one of Great Britain's most successful ever Paralympians having won 22 medals. In 2015 she won four world titles, bringing her overall career tally to 17. She won rainbow jerseys in the 3km pursuit and 500m time trial events at the Track World Championships and took gold in the time trial and road race at the Road World Championships.
Chuck Aoki (USA) - Inspired to take up the sport after watching "Murderball" Aoki is one of the best players in the world. He made his international debut in 2009 and was a key part of the USA's bronze medal success at the 2014 World Championships. He is 3.5 player.
Ryley Batt (AUS) - Batt is arguably the world's best wheelchair rugby player and led Australia to the Paralympic gold in 2012 and the world title in 2014. Although only in his mid-20s, Rio 2016 will be his fourth Paralympic Games. At London 2012 he scored 160 points and scored 45 goals in the final of the 2014 World Championships.
Tomas Hjert (SWE) - Hjert was a former ice hockey player who switched to wheelchair rugby after he was paralysed from the chest down due to an injury sustained on the ice. He is 2.5 player who played a big part in Sweden's silver medal success at the 2015 European Championships.
Daisuke Ikezaki (JPN) - Ikezaki is one of the key focal points on the Japanese team that in 2015 upset Paralympic and world champions Australia to win the Asia-Oceania zonal championship. He is a 3.0 player who took up the sport in 2010.
Zak Madell (CAN) - Renowned for his big hits and all round playing skills, Madell inspired Canada to gold at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games and the BT World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge. This success moved Canada up to the world No. 1 spot for the first time in 13 years. He was voted the Most Valuable Player at the 2014 World Championships.
James Roberts (GBR) - Roberts only took up the sport in 2013 but his playmaking skills inspired Great Britain to the European title in 2015 with a 49-48 defeat of Sweden.
David Smith (GBR) - London 2012 silver medallist Smith will be hoping to go one step further at Rio 2016. Since the last Paralympic Games he has won the 2013 European title, 2014 world title and finished 2015 ranked second in the world for the BC1 class behind the Netherlands' Daniel Perez.
Daniel Perez (NED) - The world number one in the BC1 class will make his Paralympic debut at Rio 2016. He won bronze at the 2014 World Championships and in 2015 won gold at the World Opens in Poland and Colombia.
Maciel Sousa Santos (BRA) - Santos will head into Rio 2016 as the defending Paralympic champion in the BC2 class and will start the year as the world No.1. He won bronze at the 2014 World Championships and in 2015 won team BC1/BC2 and individual gold at Toronto 2015.
Jacob Thomas (GBR) - Thomas started 2016 as the world No. 1 in the BC3 class and will be hoping to perform better at Rio 2016 than he did on his Paralympic debut at London 2012, where he made the last 16. At the 2014 World Championships he won bronze and in 2015 won silver at the World Open in Poland.
Han Soo Kim (KOR) - Rio 2016 will be Han Soo Kim's second Paralympic Games and, after winning the 2014 individual BC3 world title, he will be full of confidence. Kim finished 2015 ranked third in the world in the individual BC3 class.
Yuk Wing Leung (HKG) - Leung is preparing for his fourth Paralympic Games. On his Paralympic debut at Athens 2004, he won two golds medals, topping the podium in both the individual and pairs BC4 events. He won the individual BC4 world title in 2014 and topped the world rankings in 2015.
Direcu Jose Pinto (BRA) - At Rio 2016, Pinto will be targeting a unique triple double of Paralympic titles having won individual and pairs gold at Beijing 2008 and London 2012. In 2014, he finished fifth in the World Championships and finished 2015 ranked seventh in the world.
Marco Dispaltro (CAN) - Former wheelchair rugby player Dispaltro won pairs BC4 bronze at London 2012 and in 2014 won a number of World Open events. He finished 2015 ranked second in the world behind Hong Kong's Yuk Wing Leung.
Yijun Chen (CHN) - At London 2012 Chen won two gold medals and a silver as China dominated the competition. At the 2013 World Championships he won gold in the men's sabre and bronze in the foil event. Last year he won a silver in the men's sabre and another bronze in the men's foil.
Zsuzsanna Krajnyak (HUN) - Krajnyak is one of the greatest female wheelchair fencers and is preparing for her fifth Paralympics in Rio having won medals in three previous editions. She currently holds the European foil title and won world silver in the same event at the 2015 World Championships.
Beatrice Vio (ITA) - At just 18 years old, Vio is one of Paralympic sport's hottest properties having gone 2015 unbeaten. The London 2012 torchbearer heads to Rio 2016 as world and European champion in the foil event.
Adrian Castro (POL) - Castro is the dominant force in the men's sabre category B having won one world title and three World Cup events in 2015. The world No.1 will be looking to improve on London 2012 where he failed to make the knockout stages.
Piers Gilliver (GBR) - Since winning a bronze medal at a World Cup event in late 2012, Gilliver has been a regular podium finisher at World Cup events. In 2015 he won silver in the men's epee at the World Championships in Hungary.
Yu Chui Yee (HKG) - Yee is one of the world's best known wheelchair fencers having won a medal each of the nine times she has competed in Paralympic competitions, seven of them gold. In 2015 she could only manage a bronze at the World Championships and will be looking to improve her form in time for Rio 2016.
Jefferson da Conceicao Goncalves (BRA) - "Jefinho" is known by many as the "Paralympic Pele" due to his outstanding footballing skills. He was first picked for the Brazilian national team in 2006 and has been part of the gold medal winning side at the last two Paralympic Games and World Championships.
Emrah Ocal (TUR) - Ocal was a key player as Turkey surprised everyone by winning the 2015 IBSA European Championships. The Turkish player scored seven goals during the tournament that qualified his side for Rio 2016.
Silvio Velo (ARG) - Captain of the side since 1991, Velo has led his team to a number of World Championship finals, including victories in 2002 and 2006. He was part of the Argentina side that finished fourth at London 2012 and runners-up at the last World Championships.
Ricardo Steinmetz Alves (BRA) - Alves is the captain of the all-conquering Brazilian side that has won every major title there is. He was part of the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic gold medal winning teams and in 2014 was named the Most Valuable Player as Brazil were once again crowned world champions.
Kostyantyn Symashko (Ukraine) - Symashko is one of the world's best goalkeepers and is preparing for his third Paralympic Games in Rio. At Beijing 2008 he won gold but had to settle for silver at London 2012. He helped Ukraine to silver again at the 2015 World Championships.
Eduard Ramonov (Russia) - Ramonov was voted the Most Valuable Player of the tournament at the 2015 World Championships as Russia retained their world title. The striker bagged seven goals in six games. Rio 2016 will be his second Paralympics and he will be hoping to retain the gold he won at London 2012.
Jan Francisco Brita da Costa (Brazil) - The Brazilian is arguably the best player in the world and will be hoping to make a big impact at Rio 2016. He helped Brazil to a second place finish at the 2013 Intercontinental Cup and scored three goals as his country won bronze at the 2015 World Championships. He led Brazil to gold at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.
Stefan Lokhoff (Netherlands) - His biggest achievement in over 160 international appearances is arguably a silver medal at the 2014 European Championships. Now in his 30s, he remains irreplaceable for the Dutch football 7-a-side team and he will be hoping to make the podium at his fifth Paralympic Games.
Yakubu Adesokan (NGR) - Adesokan won gold at London 2012 in the men's up to 48kg class with a stunning world record. He followed this up with a world title in 2014 in the men's up to 49kg class and sealed silver at the 2015 Asian Open Championships.
Ali Jawad (GBR) - After events off the field of play prevented him from fulfilling his potential at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, Jawad will be hoping for third time lucky at Rio 2016. He will arrive as the up to 59kg world champion and after winning gold at the European and Americas Championships in 2015, will be a strong contender for gold against Egypt's world record holder Sherif Othman.
Tzu Hui Lin (TPE) - The London 2012 bronze medallist in the women's up to 75kg class is a regular podium finisher. Only four times has she left a World Championships or Paralympic Games without the gold medal, and only twice has she left with no medals at all. In 2014 she won her third world title but in Rio will find it difficult to beat Nigeria's world record holder Bose Omolayo.
Elshan Huseynov (AZE) - Despite two attempts, Huseynov has never won Paralympic gold, but this could change at Rio 2016 if his 2015 form is anything to go by. At the 2015 Asian Open Championships, he won gold with a new world record of 243kg. He then added 1kg onto his record at the European Open.
Lei Liu (CHN) - In Rio, Liu will be looking for this third successive Paralympic title having dominated his class in recent years. In 2014 he won the world title in the men's up to 65kg class and in 2015 added Asian Open and European Open titles.
Pavlos Mamalos (GRE) - The world champion in the men's up to 107kg class could only manage bronze at London 2012. In 2015 he won gold at the European Open and bronze as the Asian Open Championships. His rivalry with Azerbaijan's Elshan Husynov at Rio 2016 is certainly one to watch.
Nazmiye Muratli (TUR) - Muratli has won nearly every title there is and will arrive at Rio 2016 as the defending Paralympic and world champion in the women's up to 41kg class. She won European Open gold in 2015.
Sherif Othman (EGY) - Othman is arguably the world's strongest pound for pound powerlifter. He won gold at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympic Games, as well as the 2010 and 2014 World Championships in the men's up to 56kg category. In 2015 he moved up to the 59kg class and quickly broke the world record previously held by Great Britain's Ali Jawad.
Amalia Perez (MEX) - At Rio 2016 Perez will count on 20 years of experience as she aims to win a third successive Paralympic title at her fifth Paralympic Games. In 2015, as well as gold at the IPC Powerlifting Americas Open Championships, she set a new world record at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games in the women's up to 61kg class.
Siamand Rahman (IRI) - The world's strongest Paralympian will be aiming to break the 300kg barrier at Rio 2016. He is the defending world and Paralympic champion who breaks a world record nearly every time he competes in the men's over 107kg class.
Yujiao Tan (CHN) - Since winning silver at London 2012, Tan has won gold at nearly every event she has competed in. Competing in the women's up to 67kg class, recent titles have included gold at the 2014 World Championships and at the 2015 European Open and Asian Open Championships.
Damien Seguin (FRA) - Seguin won Paralympic gold at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 but did not medal at London 2012. He returned to form in 2015 however, taking his fourth world title in the 2.4mR single-person keelboat.
Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch (AUS) - The pair took a break after winning gold at London 2012 but were back in SKUD18 action at the 2014 World Championships where they took their first world title together. In 2015 they won numerous World Cup events and finished the year by retaining their world title.
Heiko Kroeger (GER) - Germany's Sydney 2000 Paralympic champion Heiko Kroeger sails in the 2.4mR class and has won seven world titles. He finished fourth at both Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, before taking silver at London 2012. He won silver at the 2015 World Championships behind French rival Damien Seguin.
Colin Harrison, Jonathan Harris and Russell Boaden (AUS) - The trio finished with bronze at the 2014 World Championships and silver at the 2015 equivalent in the sonar competition, missing out on gold by just one point. Rio 2016 will be the trio's first Paralympic Games together. Harrison and Boaden won bronze medals at Beijing 2008.
John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas (Great Britain) - Rio 2016 will be the trio's fourth Paralympic Games together. Having won the 2015 world title in the sonar class, edging home favourites Australia, they will be optimistic about landing their first Paralympic medal as a group. The crew finished fifth at London 2012.
McKenna Dahl (USA) - Dahl is one of an exciting new crop of shooters to come out of the USA in recent years. In 2014 she secured a Rio 2016 quota place for the USA at the World Championships and in 2015 competed at three World Cups.
Cuiping Zhang (CHN) - Zhang claimed the first gold of London 2012 in R2 (women's 10m air rifle standing SH1), setting a world and Paralympic record. She followed this with a second gold in R8 (women's 50m rifle three positions SH1), adding to the two silvers she won at Beijing 2008. In 2015 she set three new world records and in 2014 won the world title in R8.
Jinho Park (KOR) - In 2014 Park was in outstanding form winning 10 medals at his first World Championships and the Asian Para Games. His only outing in 2015 was the World Cup in Sydney, Australia, where he won two golds in R3 and R1. Rio 2016 will be his first Paralympics.
Jonas Jacobsson (SWE) - If selected, Rio 2016 will be Jacobsson's 10th Paralympic Games. Since his first Games in 1980 he has won 17 gold, two silver and nine bronze medals. His glorious career also includes 19 world and 22 European titles.
Krisztina David (HUN) - Although she made her international debut in 2010, injury hampered her first few years. She won a European bronze in 2013 in the P2 (women's 10m air pistol SH1) and achieved the same feat a year later at the World Championships. Despite heart surgery in 2015, she still managed a World Cup win in Fort Benning, USA.
Matt Skelhon (GBR) - Skelhon won gold at Beijing 2008 just two years after taking up the sport. At London 2012 he won silver in R3 and bronze in R6 but bounced back in 2013 winning the European title in R6. At the 2014 IPC Shooting World Championships he won gold in R6 with a new world record and silver in R3.
Michael Johnson (NZL) - Michael Johnson has competed at every Paralympics since Athens 2004 where he won gold in the R4 (mixed 10m air rifle standing SH2). Since then he has won numerous medals and broken multiple records. He showed he is in great form for Rio 2016 by setting a new R5 world record at a 2015 World Cup meeting in Poland.
Minna Leinoen (FIN) - Aged 23 and on her Paralympic debut at Athens 2004, Leinonen won R5 (mixed 10m rifle prone) gold with a world and Paralympic record. She then had to wait until 2013 to win her next major medal, bronze in the R5 at the European Championships. In 2014 she won the R5 world title in Suhl, Germany.
Oleksii Denysiuk (UKR) - In his debut season in 2015 the Ukrainian made the finals at every World Cup, and medalled in all but one, to put him amongst the medal contenders for Rio 2016. He ended the year in the top three rankinigs in P4 (mixed 50m pistol SH1), P3 (mixed 25m pistol SH1) and P1 (men's 10m air pistol SH1).
Sareh Javanmardidodmani (IRI) - Since winning bronze in P2 (women's 10m air pistol SH1) Javanmardidodmani has improved dramatically and now holds three world records. She won her first world title in 2014 and a year later won two World Cup events, breaking more records along the way.
Veronika Vadovicoa (SVK) - The Beijing 2008 Paralympic champion returned to form in 2013 winning two European titles. In 2014 she claimed the R2 (10m air rifle standing SH1) world title and silver in the R8 (50m rifle three positions SH1) at the World Championships. In 2015, she won seven World Cup events and set a new R3 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1) world record in Poland.
Markus Swoboda (AUT) - Swoboda made his international debut in 2010 and has dominated his category since. At the 2015 World Championships he lost his first race in six years, but recovered to win his sixth world title in a close race against Australia's Curtis McGrath. He has also won five European golds.
Jeanette Chippington (GBR) - As a S6 swimmer Chippington competed in five Paralympic Games winning 12 medals. In 2011 she took up canoe and has since won six world and four European titles.
Edina Muller (GER) - A London 2012 gold medalist in wheelchair basketball, Muller is the rising star of canoe. In 2015 she won silver at the World Championships and European Championships in the K1 200m KL1 and will be hoping to win gold for the first time in her new sport at Rio 2016.
Amanda Reynolds (AUS) - Reynolds took up the sport in 2013 and a year later claimed the bronze medal in the K1 200m KL3 at the 2014 World Championships. At the 2015 World Championships, she recovered from a bad start to win gold by 0.02 seconds from Great Britain's Anne Dickins.
Curtis McGarth (Australia) - War veteran McGrath took up the sport in December 2013 and originally competed in V1 TA class. In 2014, almost two years after losing his legs, he won the V1 200m TA world title in a world record time. In 2015 he switched to kayak events in time for Rio 2016 and won silver in the K1 200m KL2 event as well as gold in the V1 200m VL2.
Emma Wiggs (Great Britain) - A London 2012 Paralympian in sitting volleyball, Wiggs is the 2015 world champion in the women's K1 200m KL2. She paddles in both kayak and Va'a boats, winning gold medals in both K1 200m KL2 and V1 200m VL2 at the 2014 World Championships.
Martin Schulz (GER) - Germany's Martin Schulz has dominated the PT4 class for the past two years, winning every single triathlon race he competed in between June 2013 and September 2015. Having won world titles in 2013 and 2014, the four-time European champion, lost out on gold at the 2015 World Championships to Canada's Stefan Daniel.
Stefan Daniel (CAN) - The Canadian teenager turned the triathlon world upside down at the 2015 World Championships becoming the first athlete since June 2013 to beat Germany's Martin Schulz. The 30 second margin of victory over Schulz makes him a strong medal contender for Rio 2016.
Lauren Steadman (GBR) - Steadman competed as a swimmer at Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and has since become one of the world's most successful tri-athletes. She is unbeaten since May 2014 and has won nearly every title there is apart from Paralympic gold which she will be aiming to win in Rio.
Hailey Danisewicz (USA) - In a class dominated by US athletes, PT2 athlete Danisewicz has won many world paratriathlon events in recent years. The athlete, who took up the sport in 2011, had to settle for silver however at the 2015 World Championships losing out to Allysa Seely.
Marina Mohnen (GER) - Mohnen is one of Germany's most experienced players who has won multiple Paralympic, world and European medals. She is a 4.5 player who joined the national team in 2005. In 2015 she averaged 18.6 points per game as the Germany reclaimed the European crown they lost to the Netherlands two years earlier.
Mariska Beijer (NED) - Beijer was the top scorer at the 2015 European Championships, averaging 23.6 points per game and was named in the end of tournament All Star team. She was part of the Dutch team that won the 2013 European title and two bronze at London 2012 and the 2014 World Championships.
Abdi Jama (GBR) - Rio 2016 will be Jama's third Paralympic Games and since taking over the captaincy the British team has won two European titles. The 1.0 guard is a very vocal player who leads by example on court and works extremely hard to create scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Janet McLachlan (CAN) - McLachlan averaged 21.5 points per games as Canada lifted the 2014 world title on home soil. The 4.5 class forward made her Paralympic debut at Beijing 2008 and is gearing up for her third Paralympics in Rio. At London 2012 she averaged 26 points per game.
Steve Serio (USA) - The 3.5-class forward has a reputation as a match winner and is one of the world's purest shooters from distance. He is one of the top scorers in wheelchair basketball, shooting at a high percentage from almost anywhere on the floor. He won bronze at London 2012 and silver at the 2014 World Championships.
Shaun Norris (AUS) - Norris is gearing up for this fourth Paralympics having medalled at every Games so far since making his debut at Athens 2004 with a silver medal. In Beijing he won gold, and after winning the world title in 2014 will be confident of winning again at Rio 2016. An impressive scorer in big games.
Ozgur Gurbulak (TUR) - With Gurbulak in the side, Turkey have been formidable opponents who have won silver at the 20109, 2013 and 2015 European Championships. He finished last year's tournament with the most assists of any player.
Ramona Brussig (GER) - Rio 2016 will be her fourth Paralympics and she will be determined to maintain her 100 per cent record of medalling at each Games she has competed in. She won gold at Athens 2004 and London 2012, whilst at Beijing 2008 she took silver. During a glittering career, she has won five individual European titles and four world titles.
Inna Cherniak (UKR) - Cherniak competes in the women's up to 57kg class and in 2015 won the European title, gold at the first European Games and silver at the IBSA World Games and Judo World Championships. She was world champion in 2014 and Rio 2016 will be her first Paralympic Games.
Nikolett Szabo (HUN) - At her third Paralympic Games at Rio 2016, Szabo will be looking to improve on the bronze medal she won in the women's up to 70kg class at London 2012. She won the 2014 world title but could only manage bronze at the 2015 IBSA World Games and Judo World Championships.
Eduardo Avila Sanchez (MEX) - The Beijing 2008 gold medallist is gearing up for his third Paralympics. At London 2012 he won bronze, a feat he repeated at the 2015 IBSA World Games and World Championships. He won the world title 2014 and in 2015 claimed his third successive Parapan American Games gold.
Shirin Sharipov (UZB) - Sharipov is one of the world's best and most consistent judoka and competes in the men's up to 100kg class. In 2014 he won silver at the IBSA Judo World Championships, but went one step further in 2015 winning the world title in Incheon, South Korea.
Dartanyon Crockett (USA) - Wrestler turned judoka Dartanyon Crockett captured the world's attention when he starred on ESPN's Outside the Lines programme. At London 2012 he won bronze in the men's up to 90 kg and in 2014 captured the world title.
Yelyzaveta Mereshko (UKR) - Para-swimming fans can be in doubt about the potential of Mereshko to deliver a major upset at Rio 2016. The Ukrainian beat Great Britain's world and Paralympic champion Eleanor Simmonds in the 400m freestyle S6 in an exhilarating race at the 2015 World Championships.
Giseong Jo (KOR) - Jo first rose to international prominence at the Incheon 2014 Asian Para Games in South Korea, winning gold in the 200m freestyle S4 and a series of other podium finishes. Less than a year later, he went on to win two world titles in 100m and 200m freestyle S4.
David Grachat (POR) - Grachat won his first World Championships medal in 2015 with bronze in the 400m freestyle S9. This season will see him compete as home favourite at the 2016 IPC Swimming Open European Championships in Funchal.
Viacheslav Emeliantsev (RUS) - Emeliantsev was unstoppable on his World Championships debut in 2015, setting three world records on his way to triple gold. In the 200m individual medley SM14, Emeliantsev brought down the mark in the heats and finals to beat reigning Dutch world champion Marc Evers.
Bradley Snyder (USA) - Since winning gold at London 2012 in the 400m freestyle S11 on the one year anniversary of losing his sight in Afghanistan, Snyder has grown into one of the USA's favourite, and most successful, para-athletes. The 2015 season brought Snyder's World Championships debut and a gold medal sweep in the 50m, 100m and 400m freestyle S11.
Aurelie Rivard (CAN) - Rivard won six gold medals at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games to become the most decorated female athlete across all sports and third most medalled overall. The Canadian also broke New Zealander Sophie Pascoe's 100m freestyle S10 world record in Toronto, following on from her first world titles in the 50m and 400m freestyle just weeks before.
Keichi Kimura (JPN) - Targeting the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Kimura has scored double gold in men's S11 events at the last two World Championships. He will go head-to-head with Snyder in Rio for what will be his third successive Paralympics.
Carlos Serrano (COL) - Serrano's debut season in 2015 saw him win World Championships gold in the 100m breaststroke SB7 in world record time. Then, at the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games, he stormed to an impressive five gold medals, all in Games record times and with a new Americas record in the 50m butterfly S7.
Kevin Paul (RSA) - The Beijing 2008 Paralympic champion has returned to his best form in recent seasons. In early 2015, he smashed the 200m breaststroke SB9 world record in the heats at the national trials. That meant he became the first South African para-swimmer to make the able-bodied finals at Nationals, even though the race is not on the Paralympic programme. He also retained his 100m breaststroke world title from 2013.
Ellie Cole (AUS) - Triple Paralympic champion Ellie Cole nearly retired after London 2012. However reconstructive surgery on her shoulder in 2013, which could have seen her out of the pool indefinitely, made her realise how much swimming meant to her. After recovering from the operation, Cole returned to training and in 2015 went on to win her first world titles in the 100m freestyle S9, 100m backstroke S9 and 4 x 100m medley relay 34 points.
Yang Yang (CHN) - Yang set four world records in three events in 2015, setting himself up perfectly to defend his four golds medals from London 2012. One of those, in the 200m freestyle S2, was on his way to gold at the World Championships. There he also picked up a title in the 50m backstroke S2.
Bethany Firth (GBR) - At the 2015 British Para-Swimming International Meet in Glasgow, Great Britain, Firth set new world records in the 200m individual medley, 100m backstroke and 100m breaststroke S14. Although she missed the 2015 World Championships due to injury, Firth will be back in action in time for the 2016 IPC Swimming European Open Championships where she will go for her first European titles ahead of her second Paralympic Games at Rio 2016.
Alvaro Valera (ESP) - Valera has been a constant at the top in international competitions, holding gold medals from all major competitions. He won World title in 2014 in the men's single class 6, and followed that up with the European title in 2015. The Spaniard will go for his first Paralympic gold at Rio 2016 since the Sydney 2000 Games.
Sandra Paovic (CRO) - Paovic burst onto the para-table tennis scene in 2013 and quickly rose to the top in the women's class 6. Holding European and World championship gold medals, Paovic is aiming to add her first Paralympic title at Rio 2016.
Will Bayley (GBR) - The No. 1 ranked men's class 7 player will go for his first Paralympic title at the Rio 2016 Games. Bayley's biggest title to date is from the 2014 World Championships, where he won the singles competition.
Anna-Carin Ahlquist (SWE) - Ahlquist showed her strength ahead of Rio 2016 when she won the 2015 European title in the women's class 3 singles. She is currently ranked No. 1 in her class. At London 2012, Ahlquist defeated Austria's Doris Mader in straight sets to win gold in her second Paralympic experience.
Jing Liu (CHN) - Liu won the women's singles class 1-2 at the 2014 World Championships in front of her home crowd. The past few years, however, she has gone back-and-forth with South Korea's Su Yeon Seo. At the 2014 Asian Para Games in Incheon, South Korea, Liu defeated Seo for gold in the single class 1-2. But the following year at the 2015 Asian Championships, Liu lost the gold to Seo and entered 2016 as the No. 2 ranked player in the world in the women's singles class 2; Seo is currently No. 1 by a slim margin.
Lin Ma (CHN) - Ma is one of the all-time greatest para-table tennis players in the history of the sport. Having won the men's class 9 singles world title in 2014 and then the Asian title in 2015, Ma remains the No. 1 player in the world in his class. In fact, he has always been ranked in the top five in the world in class 9.
Natalia Partyka (POL) - Partyka is one of the most recognised para-table tennis players on the international stage. The 26-year-old has competed in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. She did just that at London 2012, winning Paralympic gold in the women's singles class 10. She also captured the 2014 ITTF Para-Table Tennis World Championship title in the singles and added the European title to her resume in 2015.
Young-gun Kim (KOR) - The right-handed South Korean class 4 player will look to defend his Paralympic singles title at Rio 2016. Kim, currently ranked No. 2 in the men's class 4, took singles bronze in the 2014 World Championships. He reached No. 1 in October 2015 and his experience can play a big role at Rio 2016.
Katie Holloway (USA) - Two-time Paralympic silver medallist, Holloway is the face of the USA's sitting volleyball programme who will be aiming for gold at Rio 2016, her third Paralympic Games. Described by her coach as “an all-round player, Holloway has twice been named USA Volleyball's Female Athlete of the Year (2011 and 2012).
Yu Hong Shen (CHN) - Shen is a three-time Paralympic gold medallist who has long been considered the soul of the Chinese sitting volleyball team. After sitting volleyball came to China in 2002, Shen was recruited to join the country's national team. With Shen at the helm, China have been unstoppable in international play. She was part of the team that won the 2014 world title.
Marieke de Ruijter (NED) - De Ruijter took up the sport in 2009 after her uncle, the national coach at the time, took her to a training session for the first time. She soon proved to be a natural at the sport and is now one of the Netherlands' top players. She was a member of both the Dutch Paralympic team that finished fourth in London and as well as the squad at the 2013 European Championships that lost a disappointing bronze-medal game to Slovenia.
Safet Alibasic (BIH) - Alibasic has been a standout member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina sitting volleyball team for a number of years. A two-time Paralympian, Albasic, helped capture Bosnia's only medal at the London 2012 Paralympics when he led the sitting volleyball team to a victory over defending Paralympic champions Iran in the gold-medal game.
Ramezan Salehi Hajikolaei (IRI) - Iran have made it to back-to-back sitting volleyball finals at the Paralympics thanks to the efforts of Hajikolaei. Considered one of the best liberos in the world, Hajikolaei was named Best Receiver at both the Paralympics in London and Best Defender at the Intercontinental Cup in Cairo, Egypt.
Wellington Platini Silva (BRA) - Silva is consistently close to the top of the rankings for spikes and blocks after a major tournament. He made his Paralympic debut at London 2012 as Brazil finished fifth in the final rankings. His team took silver at the 2014 World Championships, which included a semi-final win over much fancied Iran.
Sophie Christiansen (GBR) - Christiansen competes in the grade 1a classification and won medals at every Paralympic Games since her first in Athens in 2004. She also won three golds (team, individual and freestyle) at the past two European Championships in 2013 and 2015.
Lee Pearson (GBR) - Pearson completed the triple-triple of Paralympic golds (individual, team and freestyle, grade 1b at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008). At London 2012, he brought a further team gold, individual silver and freestyle bronze.
Pepo Puch (AUT) - Current world No. 3 grade 1b rider won a gold medal at London 2012 in the freestyle event and bronze in the individual competition. Since London, Puch took individual and freestyle golds at the JYSK FEI European Para-Equestrian Dressage Championships in 2013 and at the FEI European Para-Equestrian European Championships in 2015.
Laurentia Tan (SIN) - In a sport dominated by athletes from Europe and North America, Singapore's Laurentia Tan is one of the most accomplished Asian riders on the Paralympic circuit. In London 2012, she won freestyle silver in the grade la and bronze in the individual competition. She was Singapore's sole medallist in London 2012.
Rixt Van der Horst (NED) - At the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Van der Horst turned up for her first major international competition, and went home with both the individual and freestyle gold medals in grade II. The next year, she competed in her first ever European Championships, and again took both individual gold medals, helping her team top the overall medal table for the first time and, in doing so, knocked off perennial table-toppers Great Britain.
Cai Changgui (CHN) - Changgui was part of the men's gold-medal winning team at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics. At the 2015 IBSA Asia-Pacific Championships, Changgui led all male scorers with 19 points, helping China defeat Iran 8-4 for the gold medal and a qualification slot for Rio 2016.
Akiko Adachi (JPN) - Adachi led her team in a comeback four years later at London 2012, as Japan beat Sweden in the semi-finals in a sudden-death thriller. Japan went on to win gold over favourites China, where Adachi scored the lone goal. Japan took bronze at the 2014 World Championships, with Adachi being the leading scorer for her team with nine points.
Feifei Fan (CHN) - Fan played in her first Paralympics at the Beijing 2008 Games, where she helped China take silver and has been a key piece on the team since. She returned with the team to London 2012, where China was poised to win gold against Japan in the final but left again with silver. Expecting to make her third Games appearance, Fan will bring leadership and experience to help China get over the silver hump.
Romario Diego Marques (BRA) - Marques tied for the second-highest scorer at the 2014 World Championships with 30 goals, as his team blew past Finland 9-1for the gold medal. Then at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, Marques helped Brazil showcase their offensive attack again by defeating the USA 10-4 in the finals. Marques averaged four points per game and finished with 13.
Erkki Miinala (FIN) - Miinala was part of the team that won gold at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and will be an integral piece for the Finnish as they strive to retain their title. At the 2014 World Championships, Finland took silver, conceding the gold to Brazil. Miinala led the Finnish in scoring with 24 points at the Championships.
Amanda Dennis (USA) - Described as an all-around performer, Dennis contributed on both defence and offense at the 2014 World Championships, where the USA won gold; Dennis led her team in scoring with 13. The USA dropped a tight finals match to Brazil 7-6 at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games. There Dennis recorded a goal and nine blocks.
Erik Horrie (AUS) - Since finishing with the silver medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Horrie has been dominating the AS men's class, capturing his third straight world title at the 2015 World Championships.
Igor Bondar (UKR) - Bondar first began rowing in 2011 and has been a consistent top-three finisher in the AS men's single sculls. Bondar returned for the 2015 World Championships, where he finished just a fraction short of second place behind Great Britain's Tom Aggar.
Moran Samuel (ISR) - It took five years, but Moran Samuel finally landed her first world title at the 2015 Rowing World Championships, winning the AS women's single sculls. After winning the World Cup in Varese, Italy, earlier in the year, she was named World Rowing's 2015 Para Crew of the Year.
Rachel Morris (GBR) - Morris has made a strong recovery following shoulder surgery and has been climbing back to the top of the AS women's single sculls class. At the 2015 Rowing World Championships, Morris narrowly missed out on gold, taking silver 1.10 seconds behind the winner Samuel.
Great Britain's LTA Mixed coxed four team - Comprised of James Fox, Pamela Relph, Daniel Brown, Grace Clough and cox James Fox, the crew have dominated their event for the past three years. At the 2015 Rowing World Championships, the British crew narrowly beat the USA boat by 0.26 seconds. Earlier in 2015, they posted an impressive world best time of 3:13:76 in the World Cup in Varese.
Australia's TA mixed double sculls team - Since finishing fifth at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Gavin Bellis and Kathryn Ross have been climbing, winning every major race since 2013 in the TA mixed double sculls. Their most recent was gold at the 2015 World Championships.
Angie Ballard (AUS) - The Australian excelled in 2015 by winning two world titles and setting new world records over the 400m and 800m T53. Rio 2016 will be her fifth Paralympic Games.
Petrrucio Ferreira (BRA) - Although he missed last October's World Championships, the youngster made a huge impression in 2015 breaking the 200m T47 world record and winning 100m and 200m gold at Toronto 2015. He only took up para-athletics in 2014.
Felipe Gomes (BRA) - The Brazilian took gold in the 200m T11 at the 2015 World Championships, edging out US rival and world holder David Brown. He also won silver over 200m. In Rio he will be looking to defend his 200m Paralympic title.
Leinier Savon Pineda (CUB) - In 2015, Savon clinched the sprint double at both the World Championships and Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games competing in the T12 class.
Rawat Tana (THA) - Tana really came of age in 2015 when he topped the podium at the IPC Athletics World Championships winning the 1,500m and 5,000m as well as silver for Thailand alongside his teammates in the 4x400m T53/54. He is aiming to win his first Paralympic gold at Rio 2016.
Omara Durand (CUB) - The Cuban had a remarkable 2015 winning three world titles and three Parapan American Games gold medals. She is now firmly established as the world's fastest female para-athlete.
Isis Holt (AUS) - The teenager only took up athletics in 2014 and is already the world champion over 100m and 200m T35 and the world record holder over both sprints.
Amanda Kotaja (FIN) - Since taking up the sport in 2011, the T54 racer has won three European titles and won her first world title in 2015 with victory over the 200m. She is the 100m T54 world record holder and Rio 2016 will be her second Paralympics.
Barbara Niewiedzial (POL) - Niewiedzial proved invincible at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships winning all three of the events she raced in the: 400m, 800m and 1,500m T20. She won 1,500m T20 gold at London 2012.
Raoua Tlili (TUN) - Tlili is one of an elite group of para-athletes aiming for her third consecutive Paralympic gold medal come Rio 2016. The F41 thrower has been at the top of her sport for a number of years and in 2015 she won world titles in shot put and discus.
Primary Information Source(s):
Athletes to Watch at Rio 2016 Paralympics | International Paralympic Committee (IPC) (paralympic.org). Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.
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Cite This Page (APA): International Paralympic Committee (IPC). (2016, January 15). Athletes to Watch at Rio 2016 Paralympics. Disabled World. Retrieved January 21, 2022 from www.disabled-world.com/sports/paralympics/2016/watch.php