From today, Tuesday 24th August to Sunday 5th September, 4,400 Paralympians from 162 countries are competing for 539 medals in 22 sports in Tokyo, Japan, in easily the biggest games for persons with different degrees of disability.
The Tokyo Paralympics are taking place less than three weeks after the end of the 32nd Summer Olympiad hosted by the same city from Friday July 23 to August 8 2021, still under COVID-19 state of emergency, due to rising coronavirus cases.
Just as with the Summer Games, fans are still barred from the various games venues. But Tokyo is setting a record as only city to host the Paralympic Games twice, having first hosted the event in 1964.
The Paralympics has always been a gold mine for Nigeria. Wherever and whenever the regular athletes fail the country in the Summer games, Nigerian Paralympians have always come up good, to wipe away the tears, especially in Powerlifting and the field events in para-athletics. Although Blessing Oborodudu won silver in wrestling and Ese Brume got a bronze in the Long Jump in the Summer Games, it is always a safe bet that the Paralympians will rake in more from Tokyo and Nigeria’s National Anthem, Arise O Compatriots, will be heard more times, in spite of their disabilities and no evidence of commensurate support from the Nigerian Sports authorities.
For instance, the Paralympic Movement believes that Powerlifting at the Paralympics would not be complete without the presence of veteran Powerlifter Lucy Ejike, Captain of Team Nigeria to these games, who has represented the country five times at the Games since Sydney 2000, winning three golds and two silver medals. The 43-year-old legend in the sport will be hoping to lift another medal at her sixth Games in Tokyo.
Lucy Ejike competes in the Women’s up to 61kg event.
Team Nigeria will participate in four events at the Games – Powerlifting, Para-Athletics, Para-Table Tennis and Para-Rowing.
At the last games in Rio, Nigeria was represented by 14 athletes but this has been reduced to 9 for Tokyo. Rio 2016 has been Nigeria’s most successful outing at Paralympics, finishing as Africa’s best team and 17th in the world on the medals table with eight gold, two silver, and two bronze medals.
The first Paralympics debut for Nigeria was Barcelona 1992, with six athletes who came back with three gold medals. Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Games is Nigeria’s eighth consecutive appearance after the maiden appearance at Barcelona 1992.
Nigeria largest contingent to the games was in Sydney 2000 with 31 Paralympics Athletes which won 13 medals.
Nigeria has won Paralympic medals in Powerlifting, Athletics and Table tennis, but Powerlifting has been Nigeria’s most successful sport at the Games, providing 21 of its 36 gold medals.
Visually impaired Sprinter and long jumper Adeoye Ajibola won four gold medals at the Paralympic Games, which is the most of any representative of Nigeria. He claimed gold in both the men’s TS4 100m and TS4 200m at the 1992 Games, and claimed another two titles in the T45-46 100m and T45-46 200m four years later in Atlanta.
Team Nigeria Captain Lucy Ejike has assured Nigerians of an impressive performance in Tokyo. She said when they arrived in Japan that the team intends to win medals and break records at the games. Para Powerlifter, Nnamdi Innocent, also called for the support of Nigerians, while pledging the readiness of the Powerlifters to rake in medals for the country.
Of the events slated for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Badminton and Taekwondo are making their Paralympic debuts. Boccia and Goalball are the two only sports in the Paralympic programme that do not have an Olympic counterpart.
The last Paralympic Games in Rio 2016 Paralympics had a record TV viewing with a 4.1 billion cumulative audience. With more broadcasters than ever before covering the action, Tokyo 2020 is expected to surpass this figure.
The Paralympic Games were founded by Sir Ludwig Guttmann, a Jewish doctor who fled Nazi Germany to England, where he opened a spinal injuries centre at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital. The first edition of the Stoke Mandeville Games – predecessor of Paralympics – was held on 29th July 1948, with 16 injured servicemen and women competing in archery. The Stoke Mandeville Games later became the Paralympic Games, which first took place in Rome, Italy, in 1960 featuring 400 athletes from 23 countries.
The International Paralympic Committee was founded in 1989 to act as the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. US swimmer Trischa Zorn is the most decorated Paralympian with 55 medals, 32 being gold. She competed between 1980 and 2004.
There are several rules in Paralympic events modeled after those for elite athletes. For instance, Runners with vision impairment are tethered to guide runners with a tiny strap that will attach to their arms or hands but the Runners with vision impairment must always finish in front of their guide runners.
For tennis, players are allowed two bounces of the ball in wheelchair tennis. And in wheelchair basketball, a player is allowed two touches of their wheelchair in between a dribble, a shot or a pass. Otherwise, it is a travel violation. Also, Football 5-a-side sighted coaches are positioned behind the attacking goal to direct players forward. Spectators need to stay silent during football 5-a-side and Goalball games as players rely on the ball’s sound. Brazil have been undefeated in football 5-a-side at the Paralympics since its debut at Athens 2004.
The Paralympics and Olympics have been held together in the same city ever since the Seoul 1988 Games.
The word “Paralympic” derives from the Greek preposition “para” (beside or alongside) and the word “Olympic”. Its meaning is that Paralympics are the parallel Games to the Olympics and illustrates how the two movements exist side-by-side.
A record number of female athletes are competing at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, as at least 40.5 per cent of all the athletes will be women, according to the IPC Qualification Criteria. This equates to 1,782 athletes, an increase on the 1,671 women who competed at Rio 2016 (38.6 per cent).