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
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
football
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
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

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering