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What a happy coincidence. Today

is Independence Day in Brazil. It is also the Opening Ceremony for Rio 2016’s Paralympic Games. The Paralympics is all about world

class athletes asserting their independence – their indomitable spirit shines through and provides a wonderful example for us all. This latest batch of notes is being

scribbled just after being in the audience for Channel 4’s The Last Leg in Rio. Yes, I rubbed shoulders with Adam

Hills, Alex Brooker, Josh Widdicombe, Clare Balding and RJ Mitte (from the hit series ‘Breaking Bad’). If that wasn’t enough, it was fab to meet

up with former Welsh Paralympic gold medal swimmer Liz Johnson. The focus tonight was very much on the

Paralympic stars of today, with many making the obvious comment that our current crop of athletes do not get the publicity and public recognition they deserve. So, in an attempt to redress the balance,

here is my guide to who’s who and who’ll be flying the flag for Wales in Team GB in Rio -

Aaron Moores

Swimming Aaron, 22, started training with

Trowbridge ASC when he was 10-years-old. On his Paralympic debut at London 2012, Aaron won silver in the 100m backstroke S14 with a time of 1:04.44. He also set a personal best in the 100m breaststroke SB14 with a time of 1:10.46. After moving his training programme

to his hometown Swansea, Moores lowered the 100m breaststroke S14 world record twice at the 2016 British Para-Swimming International Meet in Glasgow to ensure a successful qualification campaign for Rio 2016.

Aled Sion-Davies

Athletics Aled, 25, is instantly recognisable

as the face of Paralypic sport in Wales. Having started off his sporting career in a Disability Sport Wales swimming club, he switched to focus on athletics at the age of 14. Aled rapidly progressed through UKA Development and Podium Programmes, becoming one of Britain’s hottest Paralympic stars.

Notable performances in 2011 include

silver in the discus at the IPC World Athletic Championships in New Zealand, he went on to win Gold in discus and shot at the 2011 World Juniors in Dubai. Aled was selected to represent Great Britain at the IPC European Athletics Championships in Stadskanaal, Holland in June 2012. Aled made his mark at the London

2012 Paralympic Games after winning his first Paralympic medal on day two of the competition; bronze in the F42/44 shot putt with a distance of 13.78m. Success for the former Disability Sport Wales Academy athlete didn’t end there - Davies went on to win gold in the F42 discus in front of a packed crowd at the Olympic Stadium with a winning throw of 46.14m. A huge honour was bestowed on the

athlete from Bridgend when he was selected to be Captain of Team Wales at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and he didn’t disappoint as he grabbed a silver in the mixed-class event F42/44 Discus. After undergoing a hernia operation

just 10 weeks before the IPC World Championships in October 2015, Davies was unsure of his form going into the competition. However, he secured gold in the shot putt whilst breaking his own World Record three times on his way to another gold in the discus

Beverley Jones Athletics

Bev, 41, was introduced to Athletics

in 1997 at Wrexham Sports Club for the Disabled. She won her first Paralympic medal at London 2012. On her fourth Games appearance at London 2012, Bev produced a season’s best throw of 30.99m in the F37 Discus to take to the podium and claim the bronze medal. In addition to Bev’s competitive experience of the Paralympic Games, other career highlights include the bronze medal that she won at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, when she represented Wales. Throughout her time competing, Bev

has combined sprinting with the shot putt, but since Beijing she has concentrated on throwing. A keen sportswoman, Bev also represents Wales in cricket and also enjoys Rugby Union as a keen fan of the Ospreys. Clare will celebrate her 37th birthday on

the last day of the Paras here in Rio. A keen sportsperson, at 18 years old, Clare Griffiths (nee Strange) broke her back in a horse riding accident. A former county hockey player who had also represented her school at the National Indoor Championships, Clare first came across wheelchair basketball during her rehab at Stoke Mandeville in 1997 and instantly proved to be a natural. Just one year later, Clare made her debut

for Great Britain at the World Championships in Sydney and since then, the 36-year-old has gone on to earn her place as a core member in the GB Women’s team. Indeed, the four- time Paralympian received the honour of sharing the Great Britain captaincy at the London Games with Louise Sugden, leading the young team to seventh place – their best result since the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games. In addition to her Paralympic experience,

Clare has earned seven European bronze medals, whilst her personal career highlights to date include winning the 2011 BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, UK, and securing the nation’s highest ever finish at consecutive 2010 World Championships in Birmingham, UK and the 2014 World Championships in Toronto, Canada. Away from the international scene, Clare

became one of the first British women to play basketball overseas when she moved to Italy in September 2004 to play professionally in the Italian League for one of Europe’s toughest clubs – Sardinia’s Sassari. On top of her sporting achievements, Clare was awarded a Bachelor’s Degree in Sport and Exercise Science from Loughborough University in 2003.

David Phillips

Archery Dave, 50, a member of Llantarnam

Archery Club, only returned to archery a couple of years ago after a 30 year break. He was selected for the GB squad in 2014 and made his international debut at the Para World Ranking Tournament in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, where he secured a gold medal as part of the men’s team and a mixed team bronze. In the same year, Dave was selected to

represent Great Britain at the European Para Championship in Notwill, Switzerand, where

Jack Hodgson Judo

Junior World Champion Jack Hodgson,

19, will make his Paralympic debut in Rio. Growing up on an RAF camp, judo and ballet were the two sports club on offer to Jack. After a few weeks, it became apparent that judo was the sport for him, and he’s never

Jodie Grinham Archery

Jodie, 53, first got involved in archery

in 2008 when she saw her Dad shooting at their local club and decided she would like to give the sport a go. After going through the Archery GB National Talent Development Programme, Jodie was selected to join the GB squad in 2014.

he won team gold and mixed team bronze, as well as finishing fifth in the individual competition. Dave has competed for Wales numerous times, with the latest being part of the Welsh non-disabled team at the Euronations competition in Ireland.

Gemma Collis

Wheelchair Fencing Gemma is 23. Growing up, Gemma was

very athletic and participated in a variety of sports, competing at national level in figure skating and representing her county in hockey and athletics. By the age of 15, she was county triple jump champion and had high ambitions of competing for her country. However, in 2008, Gemma’s dreams were cruelly dashed when she was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a progressive nervous system disease that affects the functioning of the nerves in her right leg. Gemma was devastated and believed that her sporting career was over. Determined to remain involved in sport,

Gemma began coaching, officiating and volunteering at sports events, discovering more about disability sport in the process. Gemma began playing Wheelchair Basketball in 2010, competing for the Newcastle Eagles and Wales. It was not until she started her Law degree at Durham University that Gemma tried Wheelchair Fencing for the first time, after being spotted by a GB coach. Gemma loved the sport immediately and her potential was clear. Three months later, Gemma represented

Great Britain at her first international competition, the 2012 Malchow Wheelchair Fencing World Cup, and, just ten months after taking up the sport, competed at the London 2012 Paralympics. She competed as part of the women’s Team Epee, alongside Gabi Down and Justine Moore, and the trio finished in eighth place. In spite of a serious illness affecting her

ability to eat, which caused her to take an entire year out of the sport in 2013, Gemma bounced back and won her first two World Cup Medals in 2015, she shot up the world rankings but missed out on selection by one ranking point. Her achievements include - London

2012 Paralympian and twice a World Cup Medallist.

Hollie Arnold

Athletics Hollie, 22, is the current World

Champion in her event, having won gold at the World Championships in Doha in 2015, to emulate her success at the same event in Lyon in 2013. Hollie competed for Paralympics GB

at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and narrowly missed out on a medal, finishing fourth. She was the youngest team member at the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008.

looked back. Jack joined the British Judo Centre of

Excellence in September 2015. He now lives and trains onsite with judoka from both the Olympic and the Paralympic program and has recently started studying at the University of Wolverhampton. Jack had a very successful first year on

the programme, winning medals in each of the major events that he has fought in so far. His career high so far is the silver medal that he won at the 2015 World Games in Korea. Sport runs in the family, as Jack’s brother is also a member of the Grimsby Judo club and competes at national standard.

James Ball

Cycling James Ball, 25, is a visually impaired

rider who made the switch to cycling from athletics, following years of success with the Disability Sport Wales Academy, at the end of 2015. He made his debut for the Great Britain Cycling Team at the Manchester Para-cycling International alongside Craig Maclean before being selected for the 2016 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Italy. Ball justified his selection with an

excellent bronze medal in the tandem sprint event and a fifth place finish in the kilo.

Jim Roberts

Wheelchair Rugby A keen sportsman, Jim, 29, has always

had a competitive spirit, competing in rugby union, rugby sevens and cross country. He developed bacterial meningitis whilst an undergraduate at Coventry University, resulting in a prolonged stay in hospital and the amputation of both his legs. Jeanette Jones, a nurse who supported his rehab, introduced him to the sport of wheelchair rugby and Jim quickly became an influential force in the game. Leaving hospital in 2010, Jim returned

to his studies, gaining a First Class honours degree in Architectural Design Technology. He was picked for the development squad in 2012 and made his GB debut in 2013 at the European Championships in Antwerp, Belgium. Jim has since played on both sides of

the Atlantic – for Phoenix Heat in the winter and London WRC in the summer – winning national honours for both teams and gaining recognition as MVP at the US Nationals in 2015. At the European Championships in September 2015, Jim was awarded best in class, clinching the winning goal to reclaim the European title after eight years and securing Great Britain a place at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Jodie’s biggest achievement came last

year at the Para World Ranking Tournament in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, where she won a bronze mixed team medal. She recently competed for the Welsh non-disabled team at the Euronations competition in Ireland. She has been selected to make her Paralympic debut at Rio 2016.

Jordan Howe

Athletics Before making the transition to Athletics,

Jordan, 20, used to swim at national level. He began to get more involved in Athletics after attending a Wheelchair Spectacular event hosted at the NIAC in Cardiff. At London 2012, Jordan made his first

Paralympic final, where he finished seventh in the T35 100m in a time of 13.69 seconds. Jordan won bronze medals in both the 100m and 200m at the IPC European Athletics Championships held in Swansea in 2014. Jordan finished fifth in the 100m at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha last year. Injury has hampered the St Mellon’s sprinter, but is fully fit and focussed for success at Rio.

Kyron Duke

Athletics Kyron, 20, impressed at his first senior

World Championships, where he won bronze, and was selected to represent Great Britain at the IPC European Championships. Kyron is no stranger to the spotlight, having carved a successful career for himself as a powerlifter, competing for Wales in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. He was a former World Junior Champion Powerlifter before switching to athletics. Having come through the Disability

Sport Wales Academy programme, he competed at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, which saw him finish a respectable fifth and eighth in the shot putt and javelin respectively. Kyron won silver and bronze in the javelin and shot putt, respectively, at the IPC European Championships in Swansea in 2014. He added a javelin bronze the 2015 World Championships in Doha.

Laura Sugar

Athletics Laura, 25, used to be a Welsh international

hockey player but after watching London 2012, switched sports to para-athletics. Laura now competes for Great Britain in the T44 100m and 200m. Laura has grown up with a love for sport and has had a go at many. At school, she took part in any sport possible just to have fun and enjoyed giving different things a go. She was born with a condition called Talipes, so her foot was at a wrong angle at birth. After having operations at a young age, it was corrected and she was left with very little ankle movement. At secondary school she developed a love

for hockey and decided to pursue this, making her way through the ranks from county up to international hockey, playing for Wales. She has played at a number of European competitions for the age groups and senior teams. Laura’s most notable achievement from this time was a European silver medal with the senior indoor squad in 2011. After watching London 2012, Laura became aware, following a discussion with Welsh Hockey Team Doctor, that her foot condition made her eligible for the Paralympics and so she decided to give it a go. She was invited onto the programme and has never looked back. Since joining the sport, she had competed for Great Britain in the World and European Championships, with her best achievement being double bronze at the IPC Europeans in

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