It’s a discussion that comes up frequently among sports fans: who are the best Paralympic athletes in the world?
At PledgeSports, we have helped a huge amount of Paralympians from many sports raise money through sports crowdfunding. However, as die hard sports nuts, we have often debated who are the best Paralympic athletes in history?
In creating this list we’ve looked at consistency, longevity and dominance. So, without further ado, these are our best Paralympic athletes in history. Enjoy!
With 20 gold and 5 silver medals between 1980 and 2004 (including 15 Paralympic golds), Hess has become an iconic figure in the pool and is deservedly among the best Paralympic athletes ever.
Despite having cerebral palsy, Hess was a complete athlete in the water and with the second-highest medals tally in Paralympic swimming history, it seems Hess’ legacy will live on long into the future.
From 1976 to 1988, Kenny won gold in 16 out of 17 events. Incredibly, he only took up swimming in 1971 as part of his rehab for a spinal cord injury. What a legend.
Now here is a versatile Paralympian. Though his main sport is wheelchair racing, he’s also competed in table tennis and road cycling. He’s also an enduring Paralympian, having competed in every Games from 1976 to 2008.
The results? Yeah, they’re okay. Just 14 gold medals in wheelchair racing, plus another 6 silvers and a bronze. Oh, and he also got a bronze in cycling in 2004, 28 years after he won his very first Paralympic medal. So I guess you might say Franz Nietlispach is kind of a Paralympics legend.
Tanni Grey-Thompson is Great Britain’s most famous Paralympian. After a slow start to her wheelchair racing career at the 1988 Paralympic Games, where she won just one bronze, this remarkable athlete with spina bifida won 4 golds in ’92, 1 in ’96, 4 in ’00, and 2 more to cap things off in ’04.
That’s a grand total of 11 gold medals. Oh, and they include wins in the 100m, 200m, 400m, and 800m in the same year—twice.
Swedish Paralympian, Jacobsson, is often overlooked in this debate, generally because while he has 16 Paralympic golds to his name, they have all come in shooting.
Despite winning 30 medals between 1980 and 2012, shooting is seen as a sport conducive to longevity, and so you have to weigh it accordingly.
However, if that were true about longevity, surely there should be other Paralympic shooters on the list? Well, there’s not. Jacobsson single-handedly ruled his sport for over three decades and truly only hit his peak after the millennium.
He is, without a doubt, one of the best Paralympic athletes ever.
Easily one of the best Paralympic athletes and also one of the most important athletes in Paralympic history, Möller is the only alpine skier ever to win 19 Paralympic medals. Impressively, she has also won four Paralympic medals in athletics. In fact, between 1980 and 2006 she took home an impressive haul of 23 medals.
Möller is a key figure in the progression of Paralympic sports as she became the first athlete with a disability to receive a $1 million sponsorship contract.
Marson was an Italian multi-sport athlete who competed at the Summer Paralympics on four occasions, between 1964 and 1976, winning a total of 26 Paralympic medals.
Despite losing the use of his legs in a tree-chopping accident, the Italian went on to compete in fencing, swimming and athletics at the 1964 Paralympics, setting a world record of 24.2 metres in the men’s javelin C Class.
He died in 2011 and in 2012 he was inducted into the International Paralympian Hall of Fame.
Japan’s Narita won 15 gold medals in three Games, from 1996 to 2004. Two came in 1996, six came in 2000, and seven came in 2004. In fact, in 2004, Mayumi Narita went a Phelps-like 7-for-7 in her events, asserting her as one of the best Paralympic athletes ever.
Not bad for someone who is a quadriplegic, right?
Canada’s Chantal Petitclerc didn’t just win 14 gold medals in women’s wheelchair racing. In back-to-back Paralympic games (2004 and 2008), she swept the competition, winning the 100m, the 200m, the 400m, the 800m, and the 1500m races.
And those dominating performances came at the age of 34 and 38 respectively. Only one other Paralympian has dominated her competition that much, any guesses who that might be?
Just let that sink in for a moment. 32 gold medals.
In 1980 and 1984, she went 5-for-5 in her events. Then, in 1988 she went 10-for-10. And in 1992, she went 10-for-12, with two lousy silvers. After that, it was all down hill. Just another 12 Paralympic medals from 1996 to 2004, with two more golds.
And no, it’s not like this blind woman was competing against the swimmers with spina bifida and cerebral palsy. Trischa Zorn was competing against other blind swimmers. She was just that good.
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