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Tokyo Paralympics: 5 Irish athletes to watch

A handy guide to a selection of Team Ireland’s star athletes.

Irish high jumper Jordan Lee.
Irish high jumper Jordan Lee.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

THE 2020 PARALYMPICS finally get underway this week, with the opening ceremony for the delayed Games taking place on Tuesday, before the action gets underway the following day.

Team Ireland have a 29-strong team in Tokyo, where they are hoping to build on the 11 medals – including four golds – won at the 2016 Rio Games.

Here, we take a look at five Irish athletes heading to Japan with big ambitions ahead of what promises to be a brilliant fortnight of sport.

Jason Smyth

The superstar of the Irish team, Smyth, 34, has famously never been beaten at the Paralympics and the sprinter heads to Tokyo with his eyes on a sixth gold medal, having taken gold in the T13 category in the 100m and 2oom events at the Beijing, London and Rio Games.

The Derry man holds world and Paralympic records for the T13 100m (10:46) and 200m (21.05) events, both of which he set back at the London Games in 2012, but will compete in just one race this time around, with no 200m event on the schedule this year.

jason-smyth-wins-his-heat Jason Smyth will compete in his fourth Paralympic Games. Source: Dan Behr/INPHO

Ellen Keane 

Like Smyth, Keane is heading to her fourth Paralympics and is another star of the travelling Irish team, having competed in Beijing at the age of just 13. Since then she’s become one of the most familiar faces in Irish Paralympic sport, with a string of high-profile advertising campaigns to her name as well as a 2017 Ted Talk titled ‘My Lucky Fin.’

The Dublin swimmer is an athlete who tends to deliver on the big stage, advancing to finals in Beijing and London before medaling in Rio, and the 26-year-old is hoping to improve on the bronze medal she won in the 100m breaststroke event in 2016.

ellen-keane Ellen Keane won a bronze medal at the Rio Games. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Róisín Ní Ríain

Another of the five-strong Irish swimming team and the youngest member of Team Ireland, Ní Ríain, 16, will be competing in her first Paralympics, where she’ll have one of the busiest schedules of any Irish athlete. The Limerick swimmer, who recently completed Transition Year, has qualified in six events, and will take to the pool to compete in 100m backstroke, 1oom butterfly, 100m breastroke, 50m & 200m freestyle and 200m freestyle medley.

Earlier this year, Ní Ríain won her first medal at a major Para competition, taking third in the S13 100m Backstroke at the World Para Swimming Championships in Portugal.

roisin-ni-riain Róisín Ní Ríain is the youngest member of the travelling Irish team. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Jordan Lee

Lee was the first one-handed basketball player to represent Ireland, but has since turned his attention to the high jump following a chance meeting with Jason Smyth at a disability conference, having also tried his hand as a sprinter and long jumper.

He represented Ireland in the high jump for the first time in 2017, with only four months of training to his name. Within in a year, he was on the podium to take bronze medal at the 2018 European Championships. Lee, from Kerry, placed sixth at the 2019 World Championships and came in fourth at the Europeans in Poland earlier this year.

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para-european-championships-in-athletics Jordan Lee won bronze at the 2018 European Championships. Source: DPA/PA Images

Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal

The tandem cycle duo of Dunlevy – who was diagnosed with a rare degenerative eye condition at the age of 11 – and McCrystal boast an impressive record of medaling at every World and Paralympic Games since 2014, and are hoping to keep that run intact in Tokyo. 

2016-rio-paralympic-games-day-two Katie George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal during the 2016 Paralympic Games. Source: PA

At the Rio Games, Dunlevy – who has a background in rowing – and her sighted pilot McCrystal won gold in the time trial and silver in the road race. They’ve since carried that strong form into recent seasons, winning gold and silver at the 2019 Road World Championships and adding another two silver medals at the 2021 Championships. 

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