5 September 2021

Tokyo 2020: Five breakout stars for ParalympicsGB

Tokyo 2020 was always going to be unique and after a long wait, the Games we got was one full of surprises.

Legends like Dame Sarah Storey, Hannah Cockroft and Sir Lee Pearson delivered the goods to win gold but a series of new names put in precocious performances too.

Here are five breakout stories from a Paralympics like no other.

Maisie Summers-Newton

Sure, Maisie Summers-Newton came to Tokyo with a world record and a world title but was yet to be tested into the pressure cooker of the Paralympic pool.

And the 19-year-old could have been cowed by watching her 200m individual medley world record fall to Ukraine’s Yelyzaveta Mereshko in the heats.

When it mattered in the final, Summers-Newton made her breaststroke strength pay to set a new record and claim gold, backed up by taking the 100m breaststroke title.

Building on the S6 legacy of Ellie Simmonds, she has the chance to make the class her own in the coming years.

Can Thomas Young follow in the footsteps of Usain Bolt?

Thomas Young

Thomas Young only made his major championship bow at European level in 2018 and three years later, stood atop the podium on the biggest stage of them all.

The hyper-competitive south Londoner was torn up by silver at the 2019 World Championships and had China’s Dening Zhu, who won the title in Dubai, to contend with once again.

Young has already mastered the art of peaking at the perfect time and powered to gold in a new lifetime best of 10.94 seconds, holding off Zhu and London 2012 champion Evan O’Hanlon for victory.

Aged just 21, Young has spoken of a desire to emulate Usain Bolt by winning three Games titles. With performances like these, you can’t help but believe he can emulate the great Jamaican.

Georgia Wilson’s Sakura made a senior competitive debut at the Games

ParalympicsGB’s horses

Horses can be breakout stars too, and you’d agree if you watched the remarkable way in which Britain’s callow quartet rose to the occasion in Tokyo.

Lee Pearson’s Breezer, Natasha Baker’s Keystone Dawn Chorus, Sophie Wells’s Don Cara M and Georgia Wilson’s Sakura were all making senior competitive debuts at the Games.

Pearson’s homebred ten-year-old had never even competed abroad before helping his owner win three gold medals and take his all-time tally to 15.

Wells drafted in Don Cara M after the withdrawal of experienced campaigner C Fatal Attraction and they anchored the Britain to team gold, extending an unbeaten run that stretches back to 1996.

To return home with eight medals, especially after Sophie Christiansen’s enforced late withdrawal, was a towering triumph.

From injury in June to Paralympic gold in September

Ben Watson

Ben Watson went from a desk job to double Paralympic champion in just five years, but nearly missed the Games due to a serious road crash.

The 32-year-old cyclist hit a house at 60km/h during the World Championships in Portugal in June, only spending three weeks off the bike and bouncing back to win the C3 time trial by 57 seconds.

Then he led a British one-two with Finlay Graham in the C1-3 road race, springing clear of a large leading group and taking the 80km race on his own terms to win by 80 seconds.

Watson’s triumphs on the road meant that every single ParalympicsGB cyclist won a medal.

A sweet feeling for Sugar

Laura Sugar

From the athletics track to the canoe lake, Laura Sugar doesn’t know how to go slow and that took her all the way to Paralympic gold.

She competed as a sprinter over 100m and 200m at Rio 2016 before switching disciplines and arriving in Tokyo as a world silver medallist.

The 30-year-old won her KL3 200m heat, avoiding the need for a semi-final, and used the extra gas in her tank to outstrip rivals and record a personal best to steal the spoils.

Sugar joined former swimmer Charlotte Henshaw and Jeanette Chippington, as well as ex-sitting volleyball player Emma Wiggs, on the podium in the latest triumph for our versatile paddlers, while Robert Oliver and Stuart Wood also won medals in the sport.

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