The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games came to a close on the 5th of September – if you weren’t keeping up with the coverage, we have to tell you missed great entertainment and an abundance of inspirational moments. Breaking records and highlighting positive news, it saw more countries winning medals, was also the first to present a refugee Paralympic team and had the highest number ever of LGBTQIA+ athletes participating. We’re here to shed light on those making history and competing this year – celebrating the entirety of the Paralympic Games.
Zakia Khudadadi was the second Afghan woman to compete in the Paralympic Games and one of the only two athletes from Afghanistan who managed to get to Tokyo due to the situation in the country. Khudadadi competed in the Taekwondo category – which was also making its debut in Tokyo this year. Even though she didn’t make it further than her second match, she was already successful by being there after such difficult circumstances. As Afghanistan’s future is uncertain, the importance of having an Afghan woman participating isn’t only huge for the country, but for the world, highlighting even more the issues they’re facing.
The Australian athlete, Robyn Lambird, won a bronze medal for Australia in wheelchair racing, making them the first openly nonbinary Paralympian to won a medal in the competition. They also model and have worked for brands like Target and Tommy Hilfiger. Lambird is an active advocate for both the disability and queer causes. “Here, queer, and ready to remind you that disabled people are hot. And that mobility aids aren’t a sign of tragedy, they are a source of freedom, which is totally sexy!”, they shared on an Instagram post.
Wheelchair rugby debuted in the Paralympics back at the 2000 Sydney Games, and since then, no woman has ever won a gold medal in the category until this year. British athlete, Kylie Grimes, was the first to receive one and also take part in the mixed-gender team that brought Britain’s first gold in the sport, giving her enough reasons to double up her celebrations. “Wheelchair rugby is for all of us — young girls, young boys, youth, everybody. I would love to get more women involved in the sport. The more the merrier. I’d be delighted”, she said in an interview with NBC Sports.
The first Kenyan female rower to represent the country in the Olympic or Paralympic Games, Asiya Mohamed has come a long way! She relied on support from friends and family to make it to the qualifying regatta in Tunis, and almost didn’t make it until the last minute. Threatened to be kept out of the race because she wasn’t wearing a Kenyan uniform, she had to borrow one from an able-bodied colleague. Despite not winning the medal she had hoped for, being able to get a spot in Tokyo with little funding and other obstacles faced was a great enough achievement.
Unlike those we’ve highlighted, Sarah Storey is neither a first-time winner nor the first to represent Great Britain in the Paralympic cycling division. However, she won her 17th gold medal in Tokyo this year, making her the most successful British athlete ever in the games. She also broke her own world record in one of the races, making it her 76th. Sarah used to be in the swimming Paralympic team before switching to cycling in 2005.
We hope these amazing stories will you some motivation and inspiration. Do you have any other athletes you look up to? Let us know!