Between 4-15 January, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is announcing Ones to Watch athletes in all 22 sports for Rio 2016, revealing two sports each day, in an effort to raise public awareness of leading athletes ahead of September’s Paralympic Games.
The Ones to Watch are athletes who are expected to make a big impact at Rio 2016 and on Tuesday (5 January) the leading names in cycling and wheelchair rugby have been named.
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, which run from 7-18 September, will see up to 4,350 athletes from around 170 countries compete in 528 medal events across 22 different sports.
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 “Murdeball” 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.
On Wednesday, the IPC will announce the Ones to Watch athletes for boccia and wheelchair fencing.