With the official start to the Paralympics 2020 at today’s opening ceremony in Tokyo, we are so excited about everything that’s to come. Over 4,000 athletes will compete over the next 12 days, in sports ranging from track and field to taekwondo. Here are some potentially major moments--and of course, incredible athletes--to look out for:
Leani Ratri Oktila of Indonesia will compete for one of the first-ever Paralympic gold medals in Badminton. New to the Paralympics this year, we’re excited to see Badminton on the Olympic stage for the first time, and can’t wait to watch the three-time world champion compete. Fun fact: Badminton will have singles, doubles and mixed disciplines in both standing and wheelchair classifications at the Paralympics.
Paralympic Exclusives: Boccia and Goalball
Let us introduce two sports that are played solely at the Paralympics: Boccia and Goalball. The former is similar to bowling and curling, with athletes trying to get the bocce ball as close to the target as possible. These athletes generally have motor function impairment, but that doesn’t stop them from competing in this fun sport.
The latter is Goalball which is played with blindfolds (!) and features two teams of three. Each team attempts to roll a ball into their opponents net, who are simultaneously trying to block it from going in. The ball has bells inside of it; since the athletes can’t see it, they have to rely on hearing it.
Yes, you read that right: Wheelchair Rugby is often referred to as Murderball, due to its frequent attack moves. With the addition of wheels, this special version of rugby is arguably even more exciting than Rugby played on foot: the wheelchairs add speed and excitement, making this one of the most fun sports to watch (in our humble opinions, at least!)
Stacks on Deck
In a major move towards inclusivity, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) will (finally!) give Paralympians the same amount of prize money for winning medals as Olympians. While this has been a long time coming, we applaud the USOPC for acknowledging the fact that Paralympians are deserving of the same accolades and prizes as Olympians.
While we can’t wait to see what so many first time Paralympians bring to Tokyo, we are also excited to watch some of our favorites like 23-time medalist swimmer American Jessica Long (who you may know from a Toyota commercial). 22-year-old Hunter Woodall will compete in 100 and 400 meter sprints: the first double amputee to win an NCAA Division I scholarship and a bronze-and-silver medalist at the 2016 Paralympics, we’re constantly inspired by Woodall’s athletic accomplishments, and constantly entertained by his TikToks!