back to top

12 Things You May Not Have Known About This Year's Paralympic Athletes

This year's Paralympic Games have been filled breakthrough achievements and LOTS of medals.

Posted on

1. Terezinha Guilhermina is known as "the fastest blind woman in the world" and uses Usain Bolt as a running guide.

Twitter: @usainbolt

Terezinha Guilhermina, from the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil, has already won six medals in the Paralympics: two gold medals in the 2012 London Games, a gold and a silver in Beijing in 2008, and two bronze medals in Athens in 2004. Champion runner Usain Bolt has even served as a guide for her during races.

2. One of the paralympic cyclists is a former Formula 1 driver.

Andreas Solaro / AFP / Getty Images

Italian Alessandro Zanardi, 49, suffered an accident during a race in Germany and had to have both of his legs amputated. For him, the new sport serves as a form of rehabilitation. He won gold at the London Games in 2012 and then again this year.

3. Tatyana McFadden has already won five gold medals, and still has two more events to compete in.

Ed Mulholland / Getty Images

U.S. athlete Tatyana McFadden, 27, will compete in a gamut of events, including the 100m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 5000m, the 4x400m relay, and the marathon. In an interview with the BBC she said she listens to Beyoncé during every training session. She's already won five gold medals at the Rio Games, and has her eye on two more.

4. One table tennis player from Poland has competed in both the Olympics and Paralympics since 2008.

Juan Mabromata / AFP / Getty Images

Polish tennis player Natalia Partyka, 27, was born without part of her arm, but that hasn't stopped her from participating in both the Paralympic and Olympic Games in 2008, 2012, and 2016. She was the youngest athlete to compete in the Paralympic Games during the Sydney Olympics, and this year she competed in two events, taking home the gold in one of them.


5. The Brazilian runner who defeating Oscar Pistorius returned to run at the Rio 2016 Games.

Buda Mendes / Getty Images

Sprinter Alan Fonteles has been a double-leg amputee since the age of 21, and became famous after he won the 200-meter dash in London in 2012. This year he competed in the 100m, 200m, and 400-meter dashes.

6. Another favorite this year was Daniel Dias, Brazil's most successful medalist, with 20 medal wins.

Buda Mendes / Getty Images

Born with malformations to his upper limbs and the right leg, he only started competing in 2004 at the age of 16 but he's already broken six world records and won 15 Olympic medals before this year: ten gold, four silver, and one bronze in the Beijing games in 2008 and the London games in 2012. At this year's Paralympics, he won two more gold medals, two more silver medals, and one more bronze medal.

7. One Irish athlete even gave Usain Bolt a run for this money.

Francois Nel / Getty Images

Jason Smyth is the fastest Paralympic athlete in the world and took home the gold in the 100m event for the third consecutive time, just like Usain Bolt. He was also hoping to medal in the 200m, but the International Paralympic Committee dropped the event at this year's competition. Jason has the best Paralympic time in the history of the 100m dash: 10.46 seconds. (For context, Bolt's record is 9.58 seconds.)

8. One swimmer switches events at every Paralympics she competes in.

Alexandre Schneider / Getty Images

Brazilian Schnarndorf Susana Ribeiro has suffered from Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) for 12 years, a rare disease that limits movement, breathing, and other autonomic functions over time. Due to her MSA, at each Paralympics she's competed in, she's less able to move and needs to change categories. In an interview with the BBC, she explained that high-performance sports competition helps slow the disease and keep her alive.


9. One athlete is using the Paralympics to raise awareness for End–of–Life Rights.

Francois Nel / Getty Images

Reports came out that 37-year-old Marieke Vervoort's last wish was to compete in the Paralympics Games this year, and that she'd return to Belgium after to be legally euthanized, a right she's had the permits to go through with since 2008. But she's now confirmed that she won't be ending her life, and is using the attention she has to make people more aware of assisted suicide for people who have suffered as much as she has.

10. The best 5-a-side soccer player in the world is competing for Brazil this year.

Comitê Paralímpico Brasileiro / Via Flickr: cpboficial

The top name on the Brazilian 5-a-side soccer team is Jefinho, 26, who has been called the best player in the world. The team from Brazil has taken home the gold three times, which is every gold medal since the sport entered the Paralympic Games: Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008, and London in 2012.

11. Matt Stutzman, also known as "the archer without arms," is considering switching to able-bodied competitions.

Harry How / Getty Images

American Matt Stutzman, 33, holds the world record in long-distance shooting and won a silver medal at the 2012 London Games, even without both arms. He was eliminated at the 2016 games, but hopes to start competing in able-bodied archery events next year, and already has his sights on the Tokyo 2020 Games.

12. One British athlete has won 22 medals in three different sports.

Tom Dulat / Getty Images

Sarah Storey, 38, is a true Paralympics phenomenon. She's won 24 medals in three different sports during six different Paralympic Games. In Barcelona (1992) and Athens (2004), she took home five gold, eight silver, and three bronze medals in swimming. In cycling, she won a gold medal in Beijing (2008), and two gold medals in London (2012). At this year's games, she took home two more gold medals, one in road cycling and the other in track cycling.