The World Para Athletics Championships 2017 kick off today in London and Smiley is here to champion the incredible athletes in the name of happiness! 😀

This will be the 8th edition of the competition, the first since IPC Athletics was rebranded to World Para Athletics.

The last Championships were held in Qatar, October 2015, and attracted 1,229 athletes from 90 countries. China topped the table with 85 medals, 41 of which were gold. An impressive 54 world records were set during the 10 days of competition, and even more records are tipped to be smashed over the coming week of action! ^^

With this in mind and events soon to begin, we thought it would be nice to bring you a few inspirational stories on how some athletes have overcome their disabilities to conquer the world! 🙂

 

Para Athletics

 

Jonnie Peacock

One of the biggest names in British Para Athletics in recent years, Jonnie’s story of overcoming adversity at a young age has inspired kids all over Britain to rise above their circumstances and find empowerment through sports.

At age 5 Jonnie contracted meningitis, forcing the amputation of his right leg just below the knee. His mum played a large part in helping him grow up with confidence despite sometimes feeling isolated from the other children at school, and Jonnie credits the resilience she helped instil in him as invaluable in athletics:  

“Mum was always there, but she never wrapped me up in bubble wrap. She just gave me the tools to fix whatever I needed to myself. She tried to make my life as normal as possible and never let me get away with anything.

I used to kick my prosthetic leg off to get out of doing the washing up and she’d just pull up a chair and go, “There, do it on that.” She used to tell me I’d find it more painful not joining in at school than joining in so I’d play football till my stump hurt, but she was right – it was less painful than sitting on the sidelines.”

In 2010 he set a new 100m World Record in amputee sprinting at the US Paralympic track and field trials, recording a blistering time of 10.85 seconds to beat the previous record. At the 2012 Summer Paralympics, Peacock won the 100m T44 final, claiming the gold and the Paralympic record in the process. At the 2016 Summer Paralympics, Peacock defended his title, winning gold in the T44 100m.

 

Brown and McIntosh at 100m

 

Franz Nietlispach

Franz was born in 1958 in Switzerland. At the age of 15 he received a spinal cord injury by falling from a cherry tree, and spent months in recovery to regain mobility.

From the age of 18 he has competed in every Summer Paralympic Games from 1976 to 2008, winning a total of fourteen gold, six silver, and two bronze medals. All of these medals were for athletics, except for one bronze earned in handcycling at the 2004 Games.

At the 2008 Beijing Games, Nietlispach competed only in cycling, marking the first time he appeared at the Paralympics without participating in an athletics event. He even competed in table tennis early in his career, taking part in that sport at the 1976 and 1980 Paralympics.

After taking a step back from active training and his incredible list of sporting achievements, Franz went on to achieve political office in Aargau, canton of his native Switzerland.

 

070912 - Michelle Errichiello - 3b - 2012 Summer Paralympics

 

Tatyana McFadden

There aren’t many athletes in the world who have battled adversity to accomplish so much in the way that Tatyana has. Born in Russia in 1989, she was diagnosed with with spina bifida at birth, and her mother abandoned her in an orphanage soon after. For the first 6 years of her life, being paralysed from the waist down with no wheelchair, she learned to walk on her hands to keep up with the other children.

Little did she know that the powerful arms she began developed as a small child would someday carry her around the globe as one of the world’s greatest athletes of all time!

In 1994 she met Deborah McFadden who was visiting Russia for the US Health Dept, and formed a close bond resulting in her adoption and move to Baltimore in America. The transition was difficult at first and with Tatyana’s health worsening she was encouraged to get into various sports to improve her strength, inadvertently kickstarting her extraordinary life as an athlete and love for wheelchair racing!

Tatyana made her Paralympic debut in Athens in 2004 at the tender age of 15 – the youngest member of team USA to compete. She returned from Greece with her first two medals and a burning desire to become the best. Just two years later she was back and won gold at the World Championships, setting a new 100m world record in the process!  

At the 2008 Paralympic in Beijing, at 19 and still in the infancy of her athletic career, she earned four more medals. In London, in 2012, she added another four medals, three of which were gold. One year later, at the 2013 World Championships, she became the first athlete in history to win six gold medals at the same event. Her dominance was in full swing and she was still only 24.

In 2016, at the Rio Paralympics, Tatyana continued to dominate the field of wheelchair racing, winning four gold and two silver medals, and ending the year holding world records for the 100m, 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m events.

Since then she has completed her education, and campaigned tirelessly for disabled rights. When she isn’t racing or studying, she works as a national advocate for equal access for people with disabilities, is a lifetime member of the Girls Scouts, is on the Board of Directors of Spina Bifida of Illinois, and speaks to children and adults about healthy living.  

 

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Event timetable and flags with a Smile!

We hope you enjoyed our trio of inspirational tales, but remember these are just three para athletes out of the countless thousands that have risen above their disabilities and represented their countries in the highest level of sporting excellence.

Don’t forget to tune in to watch these modern day superheroes in action this month during the World Championships, they run from the 14th-23rd of July and you can find an official timetable of events to help keep up with your favourite stars.

You can even head over to our online dictionary and download your country’s Smiley to share with friends and show your national pride during this exciting event 😉

Have a great day and stay Smiley!