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Age and the Paralympics via @DameSarahStorey and @EllieSimmonds1

by on September 21, 2016

I managed to be on holiday in Italy throughout the 2012 Olympics (no doubt missing my only chance to see the Games in my home city) so for me the Paralympics were London 2012. It’s been great to catch up with some of the Paralympic stars of the London Games again in Rio.

Dame Sarah Storey and Ellie Simmonds were both interviewed this morning on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme (you can hear this at timemark 2:27) about their future plans. Neither were over-committing themselves at this stage; as Sarah said, some decisions are best made when less champagne has been drunk! She didn’t sound like someone on the verge of retiring from her sport, though.

Dame Sarah (38) has a particularly impressive Paralympian record, having started out as a swimmer at the age of 15, winning two golds, three silvers and a bronze in Barcelona in 1992. She continued swimming in the next three Paralympic Games before switching to cycling in 2005. She has now amassed an overall total of 13 gold medals, making her Britain’s most successful female Paralympian.

Ellie Simmonds (who is now 21) was the youngest ever British athlete at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008 (when she was only 13) where she won two gold medals for Great Britain. At Rio, she became the first SM6 swimmer to race below three minutes in the 200m medley, setting a new World Record. Even at the comparatively young age of 21, she has already inspired Ellie Robinson, who has the same condition as Simmonds, the 15-year-old who won the S6 50m butterfly at Rio.

This prompted me to look at age limits in relation to the Paralympics. In fact, unlike some of the Olympic sports, it seems that the IPC does not stipulate a general minimum age limit for athletes competing in the Paralympic Games so long as they are ‘adequately prepared for elite level international competition’. I don’t think there’s an upper age limit either. I’m not certain who the oldest Paralympian was at Rio but, according to this article in the Independent one contender might be Zuray Marcano, the 62-year-old weightlifter from Venezuela. She had only competed in the Paralympics once before but that was 16 years ago in Sydney. As noted in the article, at 62 she is at an age where many athletes have already been retired for at least 20 years. She is reported as saying that competing will show people “you can still lead a healthy and productive life when you are in your sixties”.

Congratulations to all those who took part at Rio and huge congratulations to our very sucessful Para GB team.

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