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ParalympicsGB brought the curtain down on its incredible campaign at the Tokyo Paralympics over the weekend, claiming bronze medals in badminton and basketball to finish in second place overall behind China with a total of 124 medals.
Runners-up in the medal table for the second successive Games, the team took home 41 gold, 38 silver and 45 bronze medals – beating the number they achieved at the London 2012 home games by four – in what can only be considered an exceptional performance in British Paralympic history.
While Britain's haul was higher in Rio five years ago – where athletes secured 147 medals – this year's success came with the added participation of Russia (competing as the Russian Paralympic Committee), who took home 114 medals.
The pressures of the global pandemic didn't inhibit athletes from achieving excellence across the board. ParalympicsGB ascended to the podium in 18 of the 19 sports they competed in (incidentally, shooting was the only sport where a British athlete didn't win a medal), making history as they triumphed over their competitors.
There were all-time firsts, like the gold medal won by the wheelchair rugby team. There were momentous landmarks – halfway through the Games, Great Britain recorded its 1,000th Olympic and Paralympic medal since the introduction of National Lottery funding. And there were personal victories: Dame Sarah Storey claimed her 17th gold medal to become Britain's most decorated Paralympian. (continued below)
“It’s been a rollercoaster cycle but here we are after a historic Games for the Paralympic movement and for us at GB,” said chef de mission Penny Briscoe. “It’s been complex and intensive and everyone involved should be hugely proud of their efforts. We spoke about embracing the opportunity and 226 athletes across 19 sports have done that. But it’s been tough.
“We had to manage two positive COVID cases and a number of close contacts, which was hugely challenging for all involved,” she continued. “We had a handful of false positives, which took sensitive management and a number of key staff who were prevented from travelling. It’s testimony to the team that they have been able to adapt to the setbacks.
“Every athlete selected has had the opportunity to compete and every one is thankful for that opportunity. They have rewritten the history books. There is now 1,088 days to go until Paris and we are in a positive place.”
Boccia gold medallist David Smith, who claimed his fifth medal this year, said it was an “unbelievable honour” to be named as Great Britain’s flag-bearer for the closing ceremony. “I am proud to be the face of the athletes that are here, and those who have already returned home,” he said.
“Not only am I representing the sport that I love, but the wider ParalympicsGB team too. I have received so much support over these last 12 days, this honour is for every one of them – athletes, support staff and British fans alike.”
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