The Tokyo Paralympic Games will feature around 4,400 athletes who will compete in 539 medal events. Paralympic athletes have a range of disabilities that include but are not limited to impaired muscle power, impaired range of movement, limb deficiency, vision impairment, and intellectual impairment. Due to the wide variety of disabilities that Para athletes have, there are several categories in which the athletes compete. These categories are broken down into classifications which can vary from sport to sport. As with any athlete, Paralympians are at the top of their field. Here are just some Paralympians to watch for in Tokyo this year:
This four-time Paralympian had an unexpected leg surgery earlier this year that upset her training for the Tokyo games. She was unable to wear her prosthetic legs for eight weeks after the surgery. However, she was still able to qualify for the Tokyo games in cycling. She has competed previously in cross country skiing, biathlon, and rowing. Oksana is heading to Tokyo for her 5th Paralympic games!1
Melissa Stockwell became the first Iraq veteran chosen for the Paralympics when she competed at the 2008 games. Recently, Stockwell suffered a back injury after a bike crash in July 2021. This injury put a pause on her training to allow for time to heal, but she is still planning to compete in Tokyo. Tokyo will be her third Paralympic Games; she previously has competed in swimming as well as paratriathlon.2
David Brown became the first blind athlete to run 100m in under 11 seconds in 2014. He is hoping to go even faster in Tokyo. Brown can accomplish his impressive racing speeds with the help of a guide runner. His guide, Jerome Avery, helped him win gold in Rio but has had to step back due to injury this year, so Brown will be running with a new guide in Tokyo. Will this be the year that Brown breaks even more records?3
Matt Stutzman is going to his third Paralympic Games this year. He is known as the “Armless Archer” as he was born without arms and used his feet to compete in archery. He has smashed world records for the farthest archery target hit for any archer. Tune in to see if Stutzman can bring home the gold in Tokyo!4
After winning a silver medal in 2012 and a gold medal in Rio, Kaleo Kanahele Maclay has her sights set on gold in Tokyo. Maclay has been on the roster for Team USA since she was 14. Maclay was born with a club foot and tried various sports before volleyball, but states that once she tried volleyball it “truly clicked.” Sitting volleyball has some court size and net height modifications, and there are rules about keeping body contact with the floor during play and hits. The sitting volleyball team consists of six players on the court at a time. Be sure to watch Maclay and Team USA as they attempt to repeat their success from Rio in Tokyo this year.5
Jessica Long is the second most decorated US Paralympian of all time. She has 23 Paralympic medals; 13 are gold. She first qualified for the 2004 games at only 12 years of age, and Tokyo will be her fifth Paralympic Games. You may recognize her from commercials that have been airing during the Olympics this year about her adoption story. Long will compete in multiple swimming events this year and is looking to add to her medal collection.6
Steve Serio has been a member of Team USA’s wheelchair basketball team since 2008. The team earned gold in Rio and will be looking to build on this success in Tokyo. Serio had a tumor removed from his spine as a baby that led to paralysis. He began playing wheelchair basketball at 14 and has had great success playing professionally in Germany. Team USA has a 12 player roster, and eight are returning from the winning team from Rio in 2016. Wheelchair basketball does have some rules that differ from running basketball in regards to dribbling, scoring, and fouls, and a player must remain firmly seated in the chair and not use their lower limbs to steer or gain an advantage. Wheelchair basketball is an enjoyable, face-paced sport to watch. So check out Team USA as they compete in Tokyo!7
The Paralympic Games will begin on August 24 and will end on September 5, 2021.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.