Paralympics: The class of 2012 - Paralympics - Olympics - The Independent

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.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week