100 days until the Paralympics: Locals hoping to make a big splash in Rio

Jonathan Drane (right) and Chris Skelley compete during the announcement of the Rio 2016 Paralympics

Jonathan Drane (right) and Chris Skelley compete during the announcement of the Rio 2016 Paralympics Judo squad at the University of Wolverhampton, Walsall. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The countdown to the Paralympics in Rio begins today – DAVID FREEZER looks at our local hopes.

Today marks 100 days until the Paralympics begin in Rio, when our local para-athletes will try to add their London 2012 success.

Teenage swimmer Jessica-Jane Applegate became the local poster girl after winning gold in the 200m freestyle S14 class, as well as two silver medals, in the pool at just 17 years old.

Archery ace Mel Clarke added to the local medal haul, with the former City College Norwich student winning silver in the women's individual compound, only narrowly missing out on gold.

That added to a bronze in the same category at Beijing 2008 for Norwich-born Clarke, who had also previously won gold in the team compound in the 2005 World Championships in Italy.


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Wisbech para-cyclist Jody Cundy was unable to repeat his double gold success of 2008 and endured some high-profile frustrations but did win bronze in the 4km pursuit (C4).

Norwich-born Amy Conroy was also part of the women's wheelchair basketball team, which finished seventh in London, and remains part of our local Paralympic team who will be chasing glory in Brazil between Wednesday, September 7 and Sunday, September 18.

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Do you know someone who hopes to be involved at the Rio Paralympics? Contact sports reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or david.freezer@archant.co.uk

Jessica-Jane Applegate

Sport: Swimming

Based: Burgh Castle, near Great Yarmouth

Age: 19 (born in Great Yarmouth on August 22, 1996)

Hopes: Already selected as part of a 31-strong swimming squad, the London 2012 S14 200m freestyle gold medallist qualified to defend her title at the British Para-Swimming International Meet last month.

The City of Norwich Swimming Club member also won silver in the S14 50m and 100m freestyle races at the last Paralympics and has enjoyed regular success ever since.

The former Ormiston Venture Academy pupil, who has an autism spectrum disorder, won IPC World Championship gold medals in the S14 200m freestyle in Montreal in 2013 and in the S14 100m backstroke in Glasgow last year.

Mel Clarke

Sport: Archery

Based: Worcester

Age: 33 (born in Norwich on September 2, 1982)

Hopes: London 2012 silver medallist underwent wrist surgery in March 2015 and lost in the bronze play-off at the World Para-archery Championships in Germany in August.

The former Taverham High School pupil was left paralysed and blind in one eye after contracting Lyme disease, an infection caused by a tick bite.

Won bronze in the individual compound at Beijing 2008 and silver at London 2012 but can she go one better in Rio? Clarke helped GB to earn nine spots for Rio at the World Championships and looks set to compete in the women's individual compound and the mixed team compound.

Amy Conroy

Sport: Wheelchair basketball

Based: Worcester

Age: 23 (born in Norwich on October 22, 1992)

Hopes: Already confirmed as one of the 12 players who will compete on the women's basketball team in Rio, after winning bronze at the European Championships last year.

The former Notre Dame High School pupil was part of the GB team at London 2012 which secured their best ever position at a Paralympic Games since Atlanta 96, when they beat Mexico in their final match to secure seventh place with a victory of 59-37 – finishing as top scorer with 22 goals.

Conroy also played a crucial role in silver medal successes at the 2013 and 2014 Under-25 European Championships, before co-captaining to the title of 2015 U25 world champions in Beijing.

Jody Cundy

Sport: Athletics

Based: Manchester

Age: 37 (born in Wisbech on October 14, 1978)

Hopes: Five-time Paralympic gold medallist looks likely to be named in the British squad after continuing his success at the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Italy in March.

Cundy won three of his paralympic golds as a swimmer, with the former King's Lynn Swimming Club member first competing at Atlanta 1996, winning the S10 100m butterfly. He retained that title and helped win the 4x100m 34 point Freestyle Relay gold at Sydney 2000, as well as S10 100m backstroke bronze and then 100m butterfly bronze at Athens 2004.

Won the kilo (C4) world title for the fifth time in Italy, as well as helping win the mixed team sprint and looks set to try and bounce back from a frustrating London 2012.

Cundy, who had his foot amputated at three years old, won bronze in the 4km pursuit (C4) but made national headlines after reacting furiously to being controversially disqualified in the C4/5 1km time trial.

Jonathan Drane

Sport: Judo

Based: Walsall

Age: 29 (born in Norwich on February 11, 1987)

Hopes: Already confirmed in the four-man judo team for Rio, for the under-81kg category. Competed in the GB senior squad before the diagnosis of his visual impairment in 2011 and went on to win World Championship bronze in 2014.

Drane is a member of Kumo Judo Club in Lopham, near Diss, and is coached by Howard Oates when he is back home. The former plumber trains full-time at the British Judo Centre of Excellence in Walsall.

Suffered a knee injury last year but that has not prevented his selection. First started out in judo at Renkeido Judo Kwai, based then based at Taverham Middle School, when he was just 13 years old.

Danny Nobbs

Sport: Javelin

Based: Norwich

Age: 34 (born in Attleborough on September 27, 1979)

Hopes: Still has high hopes of being named in the track and field squad in July, with several qualifying events still planned ahead of the selection deadline.

The former Attleborough High School pupil competed in the shot put at Beijing 2008 but missed out on London 2012 after changes to the rules for his throwing frame meant UK Athletics dropped him from their Elite funding programme.

Nobbs, who was paralysed from the chest down in a motorbike crash at the age of 17, has subsequently switched to javelin and has been training at Easton College under the watchful eye of coach Tim Newenham.

Threw close to his PB of 22.92m in Stoke Mandeville earlier this month, throwing 22.75m, with the F54 qualifying distance set at 22m.

Alfie Hewett

Sport: Wheelchair tennis

Based: Cantley, near Acle

Age: 18 (born in Norwich on December 6, 1997)

Hopes: City College Norwich student looks to be on course for selection, as his rapid rise to prominence in his sport continued just last week, helping Great Britain's men to win bronze at the ATP Paribas World Team Cup.

Competed at Wimbledon for the first time last summer, in the doubles, and hoping to return again this summer. The former Acle High School student is current ranked 13 in the world for singles and sixth for doubles.

The British number two – who was seriously ill as a baby after being born with the congenital heart defect Tetralogy of Fallot – beat world number six Gustavo Fernandez at the World Team Cup in Tokyo last week and helped GB lift that title in Turkey last summer.

Will Smith

Sport: Wheelchair racing

Based: Westfield, near Dereham

Age: 20 (born in North Yorkshire on October 11, 1995)

Hopes: Former Dereham Northgate High School pupil has been a junior star in his sport and is still hoping to get a chance to compete at Rio.

Tokyo 2020 may be more likely for the City of Norwich Athletic Club member, who was born with Spina Bifida, leaving him unable to walk.

Smith, who won T54 gold in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m at the World Junior Championships in Dubai in 2011, has been busy competing at events recently and continues to be coached by the Weir Archer Academy.

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