Paralympics: The class of 2012

The British team has been set an ambitious target of 103 medals. Can it deliver, asks Robin Scott-Elliot

Achievement in elite sport is, ultimately, easy to measure; it is winning that counts. For some, taking part in the Paralympics, just as with the Olympics, counts as a victory of sorts but above and beyond that it is about gathering medals. Leave aside what has brought these elite athletes here to London – difficult as that may be – and consider that in simple sporting terms Britain’s 2012 Paralympians have the potential to become one of the most successful teams ever assembled by this country.

The 300 British athletes share the hallmarks of their Olympic counterparts in being well funded and well prepared. Thanks to some £50m in backing, attention to detail ripples across Paralympic sport as it did the successful Olympic set-up – last week at the preparation camp in Bath, a large dining marquee similar to the one being used in the Athletes’ Village in London was erected in order for familiarity to help breed contentment.

“London will be my fourth Games and it gets better each time,” said the swimmer Matt Walker. “The set up is so professional now.” It is a view backed by John Atkinson, the swimmer’s team leader. “This is the best supported team we’ve ever had,” he said. Nothing can be allowed to distract from the sporting challenge that lies ahead.

It is one Britain appears in a good place to attempt. What also echoes across the two Games is the ambition of the host nation. It will not be a record return of medals – the total of 240 (75 of them gold) in 1984 will never be bettered because the Paralympics has changed beyond sporting recognition since. The key difference came with China being awarded the 2008 Games. In 2004, they nearly doubled both their total amount of medals and number of gold medals, while four years ago they won 89 gold and 211 medals in all. Britain took 42 and 102 respectively.

Britain will have the largest team in London, some 20 more than China, but bridging that gap is too much to expect. It should, however, be reduced, and perhaps sizeably so. A target of one medal more than Beijing has been set by UK Sport, the body that funds elite sport. The top end of the performance target is 145 medals, and it is there where expectation should lie. There is a greater unknown factor to the Paralympics than the Olympics – an athlete is more able to come out of nowhere – but it is reasonable to assume there will be an Olympic factor in what Britain achieves. The eagerness to follow in their Olympic predecessors footsteps is tangible among Britain’s Paralympic team. “The mood is extremely good,” said Craig Hunter, Britain’s chef de mission. “We’ve come off the back of a superb Olympics and that has contributed to a mood of extreme anticipation.” One marked difference will come in the Aquatics Centre. The venue for the only significant British disappointment during the Olympics, it is expected to produce the greatest number of home medals. Swimming has been set a target of 40 to 50 medals, ahead of athletics’ 17 to 30 and cycling’s 15 to 23.

Ellie Simmonds, the 17-year-old veteran of Beijing, aims to improve on the dramatic start to her Paralympic career. Four years ago she became Britain’s youngest ever Paralympic gold medallist and came home from China with two golds. In home waters she is targeting four and has already laid down a formidable marker in the London pool, having set the first world record – able bodied or Paralympic – there in the trials earlier this year.

For other British success stories from among the 44 swimmers, look to the likes of the Kindreds (husband and wife Sascha and Nyree), Sam Hynd, a Beijing gold medallist who is joined in the team by his brother Ollie, and Daniel Pepper, a double world champion two years ago. Susie Rodgers, a 29-year-old modern languages graduate from Stockton, won five gold at last year’s European championships and is one of those who may prove a surprise multi-medallist on the grandest stage.

In the stadium, Jonnie Peacock is the Briton who will be most closely watched. The 19-year-old is the world record holder in the T44 100m and his race against Oscar Pistorious and the American Jerome Singleton will be one of the signature events of the Games. Ben Rushgrove is another sprinter with golden hopes, as is Dan Greaves in the discus, while the remarkable David Weir, a wheelchair racer competing in his fourth Games, aims to turn his three current world titles into three Paralympic golds. In the women’s team Libby Clegg, a visually impaired sprinter, and Hannah Cockcroft, a wheelchair sprinter, are further gold medal prospects.

Cycling should be Britain’s other productive goldmine. The Velodrome witnessed some of the best moments of the host nation’s Olympic Games and through the likes of Sarah Storey, Jody Cundy and Aileen McGlynn should provide stellar Paralympic memories too.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
News
Rainbow List
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Life and Style
Gap announced its same-store sales were down 6 per cent in August, and 3 per cent in September
fashionAlexander Fury explains where Gap is going wrong
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
Sport
football
News
politics
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker