The Australian Paralympic team
Two of Australia’s most experienced Paralympians will carry the flag at the opening ceremony, with veteran Paralympian Danni Di Toro and dual wheelchair rugby gold medallist Ryley Batt OAM being named as flag-bearers.
Speaking about the honour, Di Toro told the press, “It’s incredibly humbling, especially when I think about the Paralympians before us who’ve had this honour.” The former wheelchair tennis world number 1 added, “To share it with Ryley, it’s a really special moment. We’ll be taking the flag into the stadium with the team behind us in spirit.”
Australia is set to have their largest ever overseas Paralympics team, with 179 athletes competing across 18 sports. The team includes 101 males and 78 females, with the youngest member being just 15-years-old and the oldest aged 60. 84 of these athletes will be making their Paralympic Games debut. As Nine News reports, there are also three Indigenous Australian athletes in the team, including Para-cyclist Amanda Reid, discus thrower Samantha Schmidt and swimmer Ruby Storm.
Aussie Paralympic athletes to watch
Tristan Knowles - wheelchair basketball
Set to take part in his fifth Paralympic Games, wheelchair basketball star Tristan Knowles is looking to add another gold to his already impressive collection of a gold in 2008 and silver in 2004 and 2012. Speaking to Paralympics Australia, the athlete said, “If anything the joy and privilege of being able to pull on a green and gold singlet gets greater and greater.”
He added, “To be here for a fifth time and to see the condition of all the guys, I feel really upbeat and we’ve got really high expectations of ourselves, particularly after the way we finished in Rio. We’re excited to get started. We’re the fastest and fittest our group of 12 has ever been. It says to me that the guys are hungry because you only get into that sort of condition by doing a whole lot of work when no one’s watching. We’re pumped.”
Tiffany Thomas Kane - para-swimming
Australian gold medallist Tiffany Thomas Kane will be looking to defend her gold in the 100 metres breaststroke SB6 title. Speaking to Paralympics Australia, Kane admitted, “It feels good to be here in the village. It’s been a long five years, a really long wait. It’s exciting seeing all of our Team here and also seeing the athletes from other countries. It brings back a lot of memories from Rio - the village life, the athletes from all over the world, just working out where everything is, how to get around here. It’s just a really good time for all of us.”
Milly Tapper - Para-table tennis
Tapper is rare in that she has appeared in an Olympics and Paralympics, making each Games twice and becoming the first Australian to do so in Rio in 2016. As part of the 11-strong Aussie para-table tennis team, Tapper is hoping to improve on her fourth-place finish at the last two Paralympics. “I’m going to take it one match at a time. I think regardless of my results I’m just excited I get to be here,” she told Paralympics Australia. “My big goal has always been to perform at the Paralympics. I was pretty fortunate to qualify for the Olympics. But realistically I was able to use that to get a feeling for the balls and see how I was playing. Now I’m really excited that the rest of my Paralympic Team is here in Japan with me and I’m excited to get out there and play.”
What do the categories and classes mean at the Paralympics?
According to the International Paralympic Committee’s explanatory guide to summer sport classification for 2020, there are 10 eligible impairments for athletes to compete at the Paralympic Games. These include the following:
- Impaired Muscle Power - a condition that either reduces or eliminates the ability to voluntarily contract their muscles
- Impaired Passive Range of Movement - A restriction or lack of passive movement in one or more joints
- Limb Deficiency - A total or partial absence of bones or joints as a consequence of trauma, illness or congenital limb deficiency
- Leg Length Difference - A difference in the length of their legs as a result of a disturbance of limb growth or as a result of trauma
- Short Stature - A reduced length in the bones of the arms, legs and/or trunk.
- Hypertonia - an increase in muscle tension and a reduced ability of a muscle to stretch caused by damage to the central nervous system.
- Ataxia - Uncoordinated movements caused by damage to the central nervous system
- Athetosis - Continual, slow involuntary movements.
- Vision Impairment (VI) - Athletes with a vision impairment have reduced or no vision.
- B1 - Clarity of vision is very low and/or they have no light perception
- B2 - A better clarity of vision than B1 athletes and/or a visual field of fewer than 10 degrees diameter.
- B3 - The least severe vision impairment and have a visual field of fewer than 40 degrees diameter.
- Intellectual Impairment - A restriction in intellectual functioning and adaptive behaviour which affects conceptual social and practical adaptive skills for everyday life. The impairment must present before the age of 18.