If the stunning performances by our Olympians is anything to go by then Australia could crack a century of medals at the Paralympics in Tokyo.
That’s the fearless prediction from News Corps’ data experts who have been crunching the numbers to try and figure out how many times we get on the podium.
Predicting the number of medals before events have taken place is of course fraught with danger – which is why team officials won’t state how many medals they reckon Australia will get but the good news is that all the numbers suggest we will retain our position in the top five nations on the medals table.
The bad news is that there are so many variables because of the international travel restrictions from the global pandemic that it’s impossible to call so no-one should be counting their chickens before they hatch.
The biggest worry is that, unlike the Olympics, the Paralympics is totally dominated by China, who often win more than double of golds accrued by the second-placed nation.
But the Chinese – who can never be trusted – have been conspicuously absent on most of the world circuits in the past year so no-one knows for sure what they will do, but the expectation is ‘look out’.
Even so, Australia can expect to win between 90-100 medals in total, which will make Tokyo one of the most successful Paralympic Games ever.
The Australian record of 63 gold medals, from Sydney 2000, won’t be challenged but all indications are Australia could win over 30 golds, despite major problems preparing for the Games.
News Corps’ data experts are predicting Australia will surpass the total of 81 medals won in Rio with the team getting on the podium in at least 14 of the 18 different sports Australia has entered.
Swimming is once again expected to provide the most medals – around 30 – closely followed by athletics.
Combined with cycling – both track and road – those three sports should account for about three quarters of Australia’s total, according to the data.
The biggest improvements are expected to be in table tennis – after three leading Chinese players defected to Australia – and boccia.
A Paralympic legend who took up the sport after losing both his legs from a mine blast while serving as a combat engineer with the Australian Army in Afghanistan. The 33-year-old is as tough and motivated as they come. He’s won 10 world titles over the last decade as well as a Paralympic gold medal from Rio in 2016 but he wants even more this time around so has entered two events in Tokyo.
Clifford lost his sight when he was in primary school but has gone to become one of the world’s best vision impaired runners. He didn’t win any medals when he competed at Rio – but he was just 17 at the time. Now 22 – he is a bona fide start of athletics, being the reigning world champion in his classification for both the 1500m and 5000m and broke the marathon world record earlier this year – by accident – after initially entering the race as a pacesetter for fellow Aussie Michael Roeger.
A five-time world champion, Horrie is chasing an elusive Paralympic gold medal after winning silver in the single sculls at London in 2012 and again at Rio. He became paraplegic after a car accident in 2001. An accomplished wheelchair basketballer, he turned his attention to rowing after missing selection in hoops for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. A fitness fanatic, he trains six days a week, including rowing, swimming, handcycling and wheelchair racing.
Known as the “Steelers’, the Australian wheelchair team are chasing a third straight Paralympic gold medal in a sport that is so rough that it used to be known as ‘murderball.’ It’s hard but the Steelers have some handy players themselves including Ryley Batt, who is regarded as the best player in the world, and is competing at his fifth Paralympics. Another team member eyeing history is Shae Graham, the first female to be picked for the Steelers.
One of the global superstars of the Paralympics. Alcott won gold and silver medals in wheelchair basketball before putting all his considerable energy and enthusiasm into quad tennis. He won the quad singles and quad doubles and has already won 14 singles and eight doubles grand slam titles. He remains on course to achieve something not even Novak Djokovic could manage – the possibility of the ‘Golden Slam’ after winning the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles in 2021.
Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007 when she was in her mid 20s, Petricola only decided to take up cycling as a hobby six years ago after some friends suggested she might enjoy it. She did and not only that, she became an instant hit. She won a bronze and silver medal at the 2018 Para-Cycling world championships and the following year she broke the world record to win gold. Tokyo is her first Paralympics.
Hall is one of the mainstays of the Australian swim team. A four-time Paralympian who lost his leg at six because of complications with chickenpox, he’s going as strong as ever. Predominantly a freestyler, though he managed to snare a couple of medals in backstroke, his impressive medal collection includes three Paralympic gold and eight world championships golds. He’s entered three events in Tokyo, 400m freestyle, as well as 100m backstroke and 100m butterfly.
The pin-up of the Australian swim team, Cole is one of Australia’s most recognisable and successful Paralympians. Like hall, she has been on the national team since Beijing 2008 and is competing at her fourth Paralympics. The 29-year-old trains with the Campbell sisters, Cate and Bronte, doing the same workouts they do – and has repeated the benefits, winning a staggering 15 Paralympic medals, a record for an Australian female athlete in any sport.
A triple silver medallist at Rio in 2016, de Rozario has entered four wheelchair events in Tokyo – ranging from 800m all the way up to marathon. De Rozario has traditionally focused on the shorter track races but has found the marathon to her liking, winning the Commonwealth Games gold in 2018 then the famed London marathon the following year.
She is coached by the legendary Louise Sauvage, who knows a thing or two about winning Paralympic gold after pocketing nine of them during her career.
One of the all time greats, Lei won her first world title when she was just 15 and has already won five Paralympic gold medals – but all with China. She moved to Australia after the Rio Paralympics and Tokyo will mark her first appearance in the green and gold. But she’s not alone. Yang Qian and Ma Lin – whose arm was eaten by a bear when he was just five years old – have also switched allegiances to Australia.
Julian Linden reveals the international superstars to watch
Petrucio Ferreira (Brazil) Athletics
The fastest Paralympian of all time, the Brazilian broke the world record to win the 100m gold at Rio in 2016 when he was still in his teens. He won the 100m-200m sprint double at the 2017 world championships then in 2019, he broke his own world record to win another 100m world title. Now 24, Ferreira had his left arm amputated below the elbow when he was two after an accident with a grinding machine.
Omara Durand (Cuba) Athletics
A superstar of track and field, the visually impaired sprinter hasn’t been beaten since the 2008 Beijing, racking up five Paralympic and 11 world titles. She won two golds at London when she was pregnant then three more at Rio when she returned. She holds the world records in 100m, 200m and 400m.
Morteza Mehrzad (Iran) Sitting volleyball
Standing 2.46m tall, Mehrzad is hard to miss, but it wasn’t until he got off his feet that people started to take notice of him. The second tallest man alive in the world, he’s also one of the best players on the planet in sitting volleyball, a sport Iran excels in. He won gold at the 2016 Paralympics and has also added the world title since.
Kae Kurahashi (Japan) Wheelchair rugby
A trailblazer in the rough and rugged world of wheelchair rugby, Kurahashi was the first female selected to play for Japan and has quickly established herself as one the team’s trump cards. In 2018, she helped Japan win the world title for the first time – at Australia’s expenses. Played in Sydney, the tournament came down to the wire with Japan beating Australia 62-61 in the final.
Jetze Plat (Netherlands) Paratriathlon
Recognised as the greatest Para triathlete of all time, Plat hasn’t been beaten since 2016. Born with no ligaments in his left knee and a shorter left upper leg, he had his lower right leg amputated in 2008. He has won the world title in his wheelchair class each and every year since 2015 and won Paralympic gold in 2016.
Tatyana McFadden (United States) Athletics
Born with spina bifida and abandoned by her parents, she spent the first six years of her life walking on her hands in a Russian orphanage which couldn’t afford a wheelchair. She was adopted by an American family, and has gone on to become one of the greatest female wheelchair racers of all time, winning 17 Paralympic medals.
Ihar Boki (Belarus) swimming
One of the biggest fish in Paralympic swimming. Visually impaired, he won five gold medals and set four world records at his first appearance at the Paralympics at London in 2012. He was just warming up. Four years later, in Rio, he went one better and bagged six gold medals. He’s also won 11 world titles and holds six different world records.