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5 Inspirational Stories from the Paralympics (Rio 2016)

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With the 2016 Paralympics in Rio entering its second week of competition, we take a look at some of the incredible athletes from around the globe who are making a splash at this year’s games:

1. Ellie Robinson (GB-Swimming)

On Friday night at in Rio, 15-year-old Ellie Robinson announced herself to the world with a scintillating Paralympic debut. Taking a gold medal in the S6 50m Butterfly, the Northampton schoolgirl dazzled the crowd with a blistering performance complete with a confidence-oozing ‘gangster’ entrance that lit up social media, and catapulted her to Paralympic stardom.

Describing the event, Robinson explained “I still can’t believe it…I didn’t think it was possible and I don’t think it is possible now … I feel like I am going to wake up and it is a dream.”

Indeed, Robinson’s dream began 4 years ago when, aged just 11, she watched four-time gold medallist Ellie Simmonds compete at the 2012 London Paralympics. An incredibly gifted athlete, Simmonds dominated headlines in London and served to inspire a whole generation of swimmers to take to the pool.

Robinson, who suffers from the same condition as Simmonds –achondroplasia, a common cause of dwarfism, was one such swimmer and on Friday night, her dream was transformed into reality.

Nevertheless, Robinson’s rise to stardom is not all plain sailing, and is only made possible by a tremendous dedication and work ethic.

Alongside training five days a week, Robinson is currently studying for her GCSEs at Northampton High School to create a work-life balance that would leave most teenagers groaning at the very thought of 5am pool sessions.

Robinson however, has taken this all in her stride and is now reaping the rewards of her athleticism.

2. Daniel Dias (Brazil – Swimming)


A phenomenal swimmer that is truly in a league of his own, the Brazilian is the local boy at these home games.

Taking his Paralympic tally to 20 medals including 11 golds, Diaz was just pipped to the post in his latest race on Sunday 11th September in the men’s 100m breaststroke SB4, where he took a hotly contested silver medal.

Born with a congenital limb deficiency, Dias was greatly inspired by the success of his countryman and fellow swimmer Clodoaldo Silva at the Athens Paralympics in 2004.

Dias made his international debut two years later, and went on to make his Paralympic debut in Beijing in 2008.

Here, he won four gold medals before dominating the London games in 2012 to take six golds and set four world records in the process.

On Saturday however, he may have experienced one of his most poignant moments in a pool when he competed against his idol Clodoaldo Silva, who is taking part in his final Paralympics after a sensational career.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Silva credited his idol as the source of his inspiration for his own illustrious career, explaining that “I only began because I saw Clodoaldo (who has cerebral palsy) swimming on TV…I didn’t even know people like me could swim, could do any sport at all.”


3. Zahra Nemati (Iran – Archery)


On Sunday 11th September, Iranian Archer Zahra Nemati competed alongside her countrymen to win a silver medal in the Archery Mixed Team Recurve Open.

The 31-year-old from Tehran took up Archery in 2007, after she became paralysed in a car crash that ended her dreams of competing in taekwondo.

At the London Paralympics in 2012, she became the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic or Paralympic gold when she was victorious in the Individual Recurve W1/W2 event. She then went on to take bronze in the women’s Team Recurve.

Following breath-taking performances at the 2015 Asian Archery Championships held in Thailand last year, Nemati secured qualification for both the 2016 Rio Olympics, and the Paralympics.

In addition to competing at both Games, Nemati was given the honour of carrying her nation’s flag at the Olympics opening ceremony earlier this summer in recognition of her incredible achievements.


4. Markus Rehm (Germany – Athletics)


Markus Rehm, also known as the ‘Blade Jumper’, is another astonishing athlete who is redefining what it means to be a Paralympian.

Competing at the IPC Athletics World Championships last year, the 28-year-old jumped 8.40m to secure gold – a distance which would have smashed Great Briton’s Greg Rutherford’s winning jump at the 2012 London Olympics by 9cm.

Rehm had hoped to compete at the Rio Olympics earlier this Summer, but unfortunately was unable to prove that his prosthetic leg did not give him an unfair advantage.

Undaunted however, Rehm is set to line up against his able-bodied rivals at next year’s World Championships in London.

Regrettably, we will have to wait until the final day of the athletics on Saturday 17th September to see Rehm compete in his main event here at the Paralympics, where he is on track to take Gold once again.

5. Elizabeth Marks (USA – Swimming)


Like Great Britain’s Ellie Robinson, Sergeant Elizabeth Marks of the US Army is making her debut at her first Paralympic Games. Sergeant Marks’ road into the Paralympic pool however, was rather different.

Whilst serving as part of the U.S Military in Iraq in 2010, the 25-year-old army medic was severely injured. She suffered serious hip injuries, but recovered to become a successful Para-swimmer after discovering swimming during her rehabilitation.

After immediately taking to the sport, she first competed in the Warrior Games, a contest for disabled war veterans, and triumphed to win gold, silver and bronze medals.

Tragically however, immediately before Marks was due to compete in the 2014 Invictus Games in Britain, she suffered a critical respiratory illness which led to her being put into an induced coma, and placed on life support for two weeks.

Thankfully, Marks recovered and went on to secure Gold in the recent Invictus games held earlier this year in the United States. She then proceeded to present her medal to Prince Harry during the medal ceremony with instructions that it should be delivered to the medical staff at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, who had saved her life back in 2014.

On Saturday 10th September, Marks completed her remarkable journey to Paralympic success by triumphing in the 100m Breaststroke SB7 to win her first Paralympic Gold.


Inspired to try a new sport?

Find out how to get into disability sport with the BBC’s special guide:



Andy Chapman

Andy Chapman

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