Meet Team GB’s Paralympic heroes hoping to have their best ever medal haul

Britain’s Paralympic heroes are hoping for their best ever medal haul now the most female-packed squad has launched their Games campaign in Tokyo with a stunning gold medal.

The team – ParalympicsGB – have been in the top three in the past six summer competitions. They won 147 medals, including 64 gold, at Rio 2016.

Dame Sarah Storey has started Team GB’s medal marathon – and her own quest to become Great Britain’s most successful Paralympian – by smashing her own world record en route to stylishly retaining C5 3000m individual pursuit gold.

Team GB hopes to at least match their impressive tally in Rio, with entries in 19 of the 22 sports featured.

Penny Briscoe, Chef de Mission at Tokyo 2020, said: “ParalympicsGB has a proud history. I am sure there will be many memorable moments to celebrate.”

The most decorated athlete on the team is 43-year-old Dame Sarah.

She has now won 15 golds with her latest win, eight silver and three bronze in swimming and cycling since making her debut at Barcelona Paralympics in 1992.

Dame Sarah and the other 99 women selected this time make up 44 percent of the squad, compared to the 40 percent five years ago.

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Penny said all the competitors had made a monumental effort to make it to Japan during the Covid crisis.

She added: “I am delighted the ParalympicsGB team will feature 227 supremely talented athletes and has reached the highest representation of female athletes ever at a summer Paralympic Games – a milestone we should all be incredibly proud of.

“I want to take this opportunity to recognise their individual and collective resilience and dedication to continue preparing for the Games during these unprecedented times.”

The rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Paralympics run until September 5.

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Ellie Challis, 17, Clacton, Essex. Swimming

Ellie is the youngest member of the ParalympicsGB squad but she is very hopeful of getting a medal at her first Games.

When she was 16 months old, Ellie developed sepsis and meningitis which left her fighting for her life.

The disease ravaged her body, and both legs were amputated below the knee and both arms at the elbow.

The young swimmer burst on to the scene in 2017, breaking the British SB2 50m breaststroke record that had stood since 1992.

Ellie Challis is a Paralympic hopeful


Daily Mirror)

She became the world record holder in the same event two years later.

Ellie said: “I’m really excited. This is my first competition out of the country. I want to do things everyone says I can’t, just to prove them wrong.”

Family friend Alex Porter said: “Ellie is an embodiment of what you can accomplish with hard work and determination.

“I hope Ellie’s achievements will encourage others to take up sports and show what you can achieve.”

Kylie Grimes, 33, Farnham, Surrey. Wheelchair rugby

Kelly became disabled after hitting her head on the bottom of a friend’s pool after diving in.

She is hoping for glory in wheelchair rugby after she competed in athletics in the last Games.

Kylie said: “Sport has saved my life. It’s so important for those with life-changing injuries to know that life goes on, This one is a little bit special.

“I’m back with the boys after having a little timeout in Rio and going to athletics. I’m back with my family. The atmosphere within wheelchair rugby as a team is just incredible. It’s so physical.

Kylie Grimes in the 2019 wheelchair rugby semi-final match between the US and Great Britain


AFLO/PA Images)

“A medal would literally mean absolutely everything.

“Rugby is in my blood. It’s always been there. I love it.

“It’s my favourite Paralympic sport and always will be.”

Jaco Van Gass, 34, Manchester. Cycling

Jaco was severely injured when he was hit by a rocket grenade when serving as a para in Afghanistan.

Winning a medal would mean everything to him.

He said: “It’s a dream I’ve had for a very long time. It would be the fulfilment of one of the challenges I set myself.”

It was Jaco’s second tour of Afghanistan in 2009 when he lost his left arm at the elbow and suffered a collapsed lung, punctured organs, a broken tibia and fractured knee.

Jaco Van Gass competes at the Rio Olympic Velodrome in 2018


Getty Images)

He had 11 operations and intense rehabilitation.

He said: “To suddenly wake up having quite a few bits missing, not being able to feed yourself or go to the loo, it was quite a big shock both mentally and physically.

“There were times that I did wonder why I was still alive and wished I was actually dead. But you recognise there must be some reason why you have survived.”

Micky Yule, 42, Edinburgh. Powerlifting

Micky is a former Army staff sergeant who was badly injured in 2010 when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan.

He took up powerlifting to help with his rehabilitation.

Micky, who made his debut in Rio, said: “The Paralympics is so special for us. Only the top eight in the world get to go in my division, and that is from a two-year qualification period.

Micky Yule is a soldier turned paralympic powerlifter turned skeleton bob racer


Daily Record)

“There is no slack and it is very competitive. Everything else just feels like a build-up to the Paralympics and performing on that minute on that day. The exposure with my sport grows year-on-year – I was lucky enough to get on the back of the euphoria from London 2012, which helped para-sport so much.”

John Stubbs, 56, Dyserth, Denbighshire. Archery

John is our oldest competitor but that’s not stopping him targeting a gold medal.

He had his leg amputated after a car crash.

John said: “I probably feel fitter than I ever have. That’s probably because I’ve had longer to focus on this event.

“The extra 12 months has benefited me and I feel really positive. You’ve got to make sure you don’t underestimate your competition, and bringing back any medal would be huge, but gold is my ultimate drive.

John Stubbs competing in the Mixed Team Compound Open Archery Semi-finals at the Sambodromo during the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro


AFP via Getty Images)

“Tokyo will be different because of Covid but I think the tech over there can help take it to a whole new environment.

“To go to a Games at any age is no mean feat, but when you get to my age you might think it’s beyond you. I’d like to prove age is no barrier.”

Beth Munro, 28, Liverpool. Taekwondo

Beth was born with an arm impairment and was a star at netball before moving to taekwondo.

She said: “It has been a bit of a whirlwind, but I am very thankful to be here and part of the team. I did netball as a sport, and I have taken transferable skills from one to the other.

“Reaction times, footwork, speed and agility are all important in netball and in para-taekwondo. Even when it comes to blocking – the speed I can block certain kicks comes from my netball.

Beth Munro is a former netball player who turned to javelin to pursue a Paralympic career


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“My hips aren’t the best but the challenge from any sporting point of view has been really good. The pandemic hasn’t been the best year for many individuals, but it has been an advantage for me with the Games being delayed.

“I would never have been able to achieve what I have had they not been delayed. Just going is the thing I most look forward to.”

Kadeena Cox, 30, Leeds, Yorkshire. Athletics and Cycling

Kadeena was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2014. But she hasn’t let it stop her becoming a double Paralympics champion or a TV star on Celebrity Masterchef.

She recalled: “The diagnosis has definitely changed the way that I think about things and my outlook. I think now more about living each day as it comes and taking every opportunity that’s in front of me.

“You don’t know when things are going to change, you don’t know when your life’s going to end, you don’t know what’s going to come as a challenge, so if you’ve got an opportunity, I always think take it while it’s there, because you might not ever have the opportunity to do it again.”

Sir Lee Pearson, 47, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Equestrian

Lee was inspired to take up his sport when he watched the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

He has since won 11 gold medals and was knighted for his service to his sport in 2017.

Born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, he came to public attention in 1980 when PM Margaret Thatcher carried him upstairs in 10 Downing Street having awarded him a Children of Courage medal.

Lee Pearson on Zion competing in the Grade IB Equestrian Independent Championship Test during the seventh day of the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games



He said: “I believe in fate and fate has brought me here.

“My life has been very surreal from day one to where we are now. It’s going to be very tough psychologically with the restrictions, humidity and heat.

“Our experience should be an advantage, but we need to turn that advantage into medals – preferably gold.”

Thomas Young, 21, Croydon, South London. Athletics

Sprinter Thomas only discovered he was eligible for the Games four years ago.

He was diagnosed with a neurofibromatosis, a rare disease that can cause cancer to grow along nerves, aged 12.

He said: “I hate losing. At the World Championships in 2019 I finished second. I raced as hard as I could but I lost and I was really upset. If I win, that’s the main thing.

Thomas Young (left) overtakes Ola Abidogun to win the Men’s 100 Metres Mixed Class Final during day two of the Muller British Athletics Championships at Manchester Regional Arena in 2021



“I’ll always be hard on myself but it’s good because I have the goal to go out there and win.

“Europeans and Worlds are a big thing, but the Paralympics are where everyone’s watching. That’s where you gain your profile and where people get to know you.

“Hopefully, if can get the gold medal, good things will happen when I come home.”

Dame Sarah Storey, 43, Disley, Cheshire. Cycling

Sarah could become the most decorated British Paralympian of all time and is taking part in a record-equalling eighth Games.

She already has 15 golds, counting her latest triumph, and is taking part in three events.

Sarah needs three more golds to pip swimmer Mike Kenny as our top Paralympian but said the chance to make history is not a part of her thought process.

Paralympian gold medallist Sarah Storey OBE



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She added: “I’ve got 25 Paralympic medals. To be able to return with something to add to that would be amazing.”

Sarah was born without a functioning left hand after her arm became entangled in the umbilical cord in the womb.

She is our most successful female Paralympian and a 29-time world champion (six in swimming and 23 in cycling).

Sarah also won 21 European titles and holds 75 world records.

‘A showcase of sporting talent’

– Comment by Craig Spence

Briton Craig Spence has been on the International Paralympic Committee for the past 11 years. He is Chief Brand and Communications Officer and a fervent Leeds United supporter. Here are his thoughts on the upcoming games

These are the most important paralympic games in history.

After the past 18 months with the pandemic it is an incredible achievement that the Games are going ahead. Now they have the chance to inspire another generation. It will be a showcase of wonderful sporting talent.

People of disability are the most marginalised and discriminated against on the planet. They have been put at the back of queue for healthcare during the pandemic. Now this Games could really be a transformative moment.

There will be top class sport available to watch for Channel 4 viewers.

Britain, and Sir Ludwig Guttmann, started the Paralympics in Stoke Mandeville back in 1948 – it is a very proud part of our country’s history.

I know there will be some amazing stories that will inspire the UK in the coming weeks.