THE HERALD FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 9 2016
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Swansea in 2014 (T44 100m and 200m).
Olivia Breen Athletics Olivia, 20, burst onto the scene in
Gateshead in April 2012. She had been running, training and competing for a home- based club but was identified by the UKA development programme. And what an entrance she has made. Breen came away from the London 2012 Paralympic Games with a bronze medal in the T35-T38 4x100m relay, along with Wales and Paralympics GB teammate, Jenny McLoughlin. At the end of 2012, Olivia was shortlisted for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year. She is a bubbly and exuberant individual,
who takes life as it comes and thrives in the competition scene. Her parents and extended family are based in Cardiff and she is extremely proud of her Welsh roots. Olivia competed for Wales in the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, finishing fourth in the T37/T38 long jump event. The Sky Sports Academy-supported athlete competed at both the European Championships in Swansea, winning individual bronze and Relay silver, as well as the World Championships, with two fourth place individual finishes, whilst winning gold, setting a new World Record in the 4x100m Relay. She repeated her feat at the European Championships earlier this year, winning gold and again breaking the World Record in the 4x100m Relay.
different sports and for three years, he played wheelchair rugby until a shoulder injury led to him playing table tennis again at the spinal injuries club in Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff. Paul was selected to play for Wales in a tournament in Germany and a new career was born. London 2012 was his Paralympics debut
and he nearly raised the roof of the ExCel building with a dramatic win to clinch the individual bronze medal in his class. Paul enjoyed another successful season in 2013, culminating in the European Championships in Italy where he took the silver in the men’s Class One singles - losing to great friend and teammate Rob Davies in the final - and then combined with Rob to win gold in the team event. Paul recovered from a broken leg during the winter to come back in 2014 and win individual medals in Slovenia and Slovakia and take gold in the team event with Rob in both tournaments. He missed the chance to add a World Championship medal to his collection in 2014 and defend his European team title in 2015 through injury but is determined to get back to full fitness in 2016 and challenge for another Paralympic medal in Rio. Son Jonathan has also taken up table tennis and plays for Wales U21.
Table Tennis Paul, now 30, was a keen footballer until
he suffered a massive stroke at the age of 10 and was subsequently introduced to table tennis at a local disabled youth club. Within two years, Paul was playing for the local Swansea League and progressed through the leagues before being selected to play for the GB Para Table Tennis Team at the age of 16 in the European Championships, winning a team bronze medal. He has since represented GB at World Championships and two Paralympic Games, in Beijing 2008 and London 2012. Although Paul enjoyed being part of
Owen Burke Shooting
Owen, 40, first discovered target
shooting when he attended a local club in Porthmadog that was set up by Marcus Politis, Disability Sport Wales Development Officer for Gwynedd Council. Marcus actively worked with Owen, making links with the Disability Shooting GB Performance Director, Pasan Kularatne, which saw him attend many training sessions in Stoke Mandeville. Through Pasan’s support, Owen was fast-tracked onto the GB programme, and has seen him relocate from North Wales to Stoke Mandeville to access training on a full-time basis. Since joining the GB team in 2013, Owen
has competed at numerous IPC Shooting World Cup events, with one of the highlights being his fifth place finish in the R1 10m air rifle standing men SH1 event at Fort Benning, USA, in 2015 which secured a slot for Great Britain at the Paralympic Games. In his spare time away from the range, Owen enjoys a range of activities, from photography and wood carving to a number of sports, including quad biking, badminton, basketball and archery.
Table Tennis Paul, 49, first played table tennis at
school and rediscovered the sport at the age of 30 when he started playing again as part of his rehab following a road traffic accident that left him paralysed. An invitation to a ‘Come and Try Day’ gave him the opportunity to try
Paralympics GB at London 2012, he was disappointed that he did not progress beyond the group stages of the competition. In 2013, Paul picked up medals in Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia and represented GB in the European Championships in Italy, taking a bronze in the men’s Class Seven team event with Will Bayley. He then went to the US Open in San Diego in December and produced his best table tennis of the year to take the gold medal in the men’s Class Seven singles, beating former Paralympic champion Mitchell Seidenfeld of the USA in the final, and then combined with Beijing and London Paralympic champion Jochen Wollmert from Germany to win the men’s class 6-7 team event. In 2014, Paul won gold in Slovenia
and silver in Italy and Slovakia and then achieved one of his ambitions when he combined with Will Bayley to win a bronze medal in the men’s 6-7 team event at the World Championships in China. At the start of the 2015 season, Paul was reclassified as a Class Six athlete and he took gold in the singles in Hungary and Slovenia and silver in Italy. He reached the semi-finals of the European Championships in Denmark, losing a very close match to the reigning European and former World and Paralympic champion Peter Rosenmeier, who was supported by an enthusiastic home crowd. Paul then combined with new team partner David Wetherill to take silver in the team event after losing in the final to Denmark.
Wheelchair Basketball Phil first tried out wheelchair basketball at the Disability Sport Wales Wheelchair
Sports Spectacular, that saw him try out in athletics and tennis before settling on basketball, and has been an integral member of the Cardiff Celts Wheelchair Basketball Club over the years. At just 22-years-old, Phil Pratt has
already amassed a great deal of international experience at both a junior and senior level in wheelchair basketball. One of eight players from the GB U22
Team to receive the great honour of being selected to carry the Paralympic Flag into the stadium at the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, Phil has both a junior and senior European title to his name with Great Britain, having built upon U22 gold in 2014 with the senior trophy the following year. Whilst the 2016 Games will mark the
3.0 player’s first appearance for Paralympics GB, Phil made his debut for the GB men’s B team at the 2012 Standard Life Continental Clash. Two years later, he took to court for the nation’s first team at his first major tournament - the 2014 World Championships in South Korea.
Rowing Rachel Morris, 37, won gold at the
Beijing 2008 Summer Paralympics, and went on to win bronze at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the sport of handcycling. In July 2012, her participation at the Games was placed in doubt after she was hit by a car during a time trial near her home in Farnham, Surrey. The incident left her with whiplash and shoulder injuries. In addition to her physical injuries
Morris’ handcycle was damaged in the crash, meaning she had to use her competition bike for training and order a new one for use in the Paralympics. She subsequently took up rowing, in
the ASW1x (arms and shoulders women’s single sculls) event, came fifth at the 2014 World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam, and won the silver medal at the 2015 World Rowing Championships at Lac d’Aiguebelette in France, thus qualifying for the 2016 Paralympics.
Athletics Rhys, 22, came through the DSW
Community programme when he was identified playing football by a Development Officer. Performance Manager, Anthony Hughes, invited him to try out in the athletics academy, and instantly knew he would become a star. As Rhys continued to get quicker, he was selected for the UKA Development Squad in November 2011. Rhys was a nominated torch bearer and carried the flame through Britton Ferry in May 2012. A young and experienced athlete, at
just 18-years-old, Rhys was ‘shocked but thrilled’ when he got selected for the London 2012 Paralympics Games. Achieving an impressive time of 12.19 not to mention a PB at the games, he describes the experience as a ‘once in a lifetime’ and was ‘honoured to be a part of it’. Rhys’ greatest achievement to date was competing for Wales at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, winning bronze in the T37 100m. This was made more remarkable by the fact that he was injured for most of 2013 and 2014 and only had a few months prior to competing in Glasgow to prepare for it.
Table Tennis Rob, now 32, played semi-professional
rugby until he had a spinal cord injury while playing at the age of 21. While undergoing
rehab at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff, he was encouraged to take up table tennis by Para table tennis international Sara Head, who was doing voluntary work at the hospital. In 2007, he made his international debut and became part of the GB Development Squad. After taking silver medals in the individual and team events at the European championships in 2011, he realised his ambition of competing in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. He admits that London was a massive learning curve and although he enjoyed the experience, he was disappointed to come away without a medal. Rob’s aim for 2013 was to improve
his consistency and his world ranking of six and he achieved even more than he had hoped for - becoming European champion, taking gold in the team event as well with fellow Welshman Paul Davies, and replacing Paralympic champion Holger Nikelis as World No1 in October. Rob was ranked five before the European Championships but defeated Nikelis in the semi-finals on his way to winning gold in the singles, having earlier beaten Jean-Francois Ducay, the world ranked number three Frenchman who had ended his Paralympic dream in the group stages in London 2012. Rob then reinforced his new status with victory in the Belgium Open, where he defeated Ducay again in the final to prove that his performance at the European Championships was not a fluke. Rob began 2014 by taking gold in singles
and team in Slovenia and came back from losing to Ducay in the singles in Slovakia to take gold in the team event with Paul Davies. In the World Championships in China, he showed all his fighting spirit to reach the final of the men’s Class One singles but had to settle for silver after a 3-1 loss to the Korean Changho Lee. Rob did just that in 2015, coming back
from a few disappointing results earlier in the season to successfully defend his European singles title in Denmark beating old rival and the current World number one Jean-Francois Ducay in the final. With Paul Davies absent due to injury, Rob had a new team partner in another Welshman Tom Matthews and the pair took gold in the round-robin team event to crown a successful competition for Rob. In December 2015, Rob regained the World No1 ranking in men’s Class One and is now focused on preparing for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.
Table Tennis Sara, 36, is one of the most experienced
athletes in the GB squad, having competed in two Commonwealth Games for Wales (Manchester and Melbourne) and the Paralympic Games in London where she and teammate Jane Campbell came back from 2-0 down to win the bronze medal in the women’s class 1-3 team event. Sara represented GB in wheelchair
basketball in European and World Championships and was reserve for the Sydney Paralympic Games in 2000. She was introduced to table tennis in 2001 by a boyfriend and in taking secret lessons to enable her to beat him, she discovered she had a talent and a passion for the sport. Fast- tracked by Wales, she was taking part in her first competition after only three months and since then she has won seven medals in major championships, including European team gold in 2011 with her great friend Jane Campbell. In 2013, Sara took gold with Jane
Campbell in the women’s team event (class 1-3) at the Bayreuth Open in Germany and then took a bronze medal in the singles and a bronze in the team event with Campbell at the European Championships in Italy. Following an operation during the winter, Sara had to fight her way back to fitness in 2014 and took bronze medals in the team event with Jane Campbell in Slovenia and Slovakia. Although she reached the last 16 in the singles at the World Championships, she and Jane could not produce their best form in the team event and did not progress from their group. Illness and further surgery during the
winter hampered Sara’s preparations for the 2015 season and by her own standards it was a disappointing year culminating in the European Championships in Denmark where she did not progress from the group stages in the singles and lost out on a medal in the team event with Jane on count-back.
Sailing Stephen, 39, has competed for
Paralympics GB at three consecutive Paralympic Summer Games. Stephen started sailing with John Robertson in 2003, aged 26, and the two of them have sailed with Hannah Stodel at every Games since Athens 2004. In addition to the many titles he’s
won in sailing, Stephen also represented Paralympics GB in Ice Sledge Hockey at the Turin 2006 Paralympic Winter Games, as well playing rugby for Wales U18s. At London 2012, the Sonar team finished in fifth place.
Sabrina Fortune Athletics
Sabrina, 19, was a member of the
Disability Sport Wales Academy, supported by Sportsaid and Welsh Rugby Charitable Trust. She holds a number of Welsh records in the non-disabled age groups, and is current Welsh Champion in the Under 20s age group. The IPC Athletics World Championships
in Doha last October was Sabrina’s first Senior International event competing for GB, and came away with a highly respectable fourth place. Sabrina is an athlete representative for
My Sport, My Voice, a campaign by UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disabilities.
Athletics Steve will celebrate his 28th birthday
next week here in Rio. He first got involved in the sport when he was at school and he has now been competing for six years. Amongst his career highlights is winning a gold medal at the Special Olympics World Games in Shanghai. On his Paralympic debut at London 2012, Steve finished in sixth place in the T20 1500m. Steve was a qualified lifeguard with has ambitions of teaching sport to other athletes with an impairment. He is a keen supporter of Cardiff City
FC. Best of luck goes to all the athletes
listed above as they go for glory for Team GB.
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