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THE London Paralympic Games has kicked off, and you?ll be mesmerised by not only the prowess of the athletes, but their incredible stories.

 

Abebe Fekadu

Australian Paralympian Abebe Fekadu, training in Brisbane. Picture: Jono Searle Source: The Courier-Mail

Abebe Fekadu, powerlifting, Australia

Some stories almost defy description. Fekadu was thrown from a car in Ethiopia in a dramatic car chase as he fled a pro-democracy meeting in his native Ethiopia. The accident left him a paraplegic. And if you?re wondering why he was involved in the pro-democracy movement, it?s because his government executed his father for being ?anti-revolutionary? when Fekadu was just eight. Now 42, Fekadu became an Australian citizen in 2007 after originally being a refugee held in detention. Oh, did we mention he?s a power lifter? A fine one too, who can hold 160kg aloft. This man has some serious strength both on the inside and outside.

 

Oscar Pistorius

?Blade Runner? Oscar Pistorius of South Africa wowed the world by competing in the London Olympics, and will return to compete in the Paralympics. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Source: Getty Images

Oscar Pistorius, athletics, South Africa

The controversial South African made the semis of the 400m in the London Olympics and was a relay finalist but returned home without a medal. He?s now back in London, and this time, his luggage is guaranteed to be a lot heavier on the way home. The 25 year old known as the ?Blade Runner? could win three gold medals, in the 100m, 200m and 400m, to add to the four Paralympic golds he?s already won.

Kelly Cartwright

Kelly Cartwright climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, and will now race for Australia at the Paralympics. Picture: Wynd Alison Source: Geelong Advertiser

Kelly Cartwright, athletics, Australia

That bright and breezy face you may have seen doing the media rounds this week belongs to Kelly Cartwright, a 23 year old receptionist from Geelong who?ll compete in the 100m and long jump. Cartwright developed cancer in her leg when she was 17. Unable to have chemo, the leg was amputated. Her prosthetic leg occasionally creates some funny situations. She once left it behind at a party and returned to find it being used as a beer glass. As you do. Her prosthetic leg will likely be lifting her to great heights in London ? even greater heights, perhaps, than the 5,895m summit of Mt Kilimanjaro which she scaled in 2009.

Stefanie Reid, athletics, Great Britain

She was a top high school athlete who lost her right foot in an unfortunate encounter with a boat propeller when just 15 years old. Born in New Zealand, she competed for Canada at the 2008 Paralympics, but now competes for Great Britain even though she lives in the USA. While you?re trying to work all that out, you can watch the 28-year-old compete in the long jump and the 100m against our own Kelly Cartwright.

Kurt Fearnley

Paralympian Kurt Fearnley crawling the Kokoda track. Source: Supplied

Kurt Fearnley, athletics, Australia

This is the man the whole of Australia will be watching. The winner of the last two Paralympic marathons in his T54 (wheelchair) class, he won?t have things his own way this time with the British crowd well and truly behind six time London marathon winner David Weir. Fearnley, who also also contest four other events, is well known to Australians for crawling the Kokoda Trail, which is a hell of an achievement for a bloke born without a lower spine. It?s less well known that he once ascended the famous motor racing track of Mount Panorama in his wheelchair in under half an hour, then screamed down Conrod Straight at 80 km/h!
Bradley Snyder, swimming, USA

A lieutenant serving in Afghanistan, 28-year-old Snyder lost his eyesight when he stepped on a bomb while trying to help victims of another bomb. This was less than a year ago, yet here is in London, racing in virtually half the swimming events on the Paralympic program. Snyder is the world record holder in the 100m and 400m freestyle, and is one of 20 US military veterans and active-duty service members taking part in these Games.

Matt Cowdrey

Matt Cowdrey will be looking to add to his previous eight Paralympic gold medals from previous games. Picture: Gary Ramage Source: The Daily Telegraph

Matt Cowdrey, swimming, Australia

Matt Cowdrey could become Australia?s most successful ever Paralympian at these Games. His lifetime tally of 15 Paralympic medals is, including eight golds, is almost certain to swell given he is set to compete in eight events in the pool. Needless to say it?ll be a busy two weeks for the 23-year-old South Australian law student who has a congenital amputation of his left arm. Cowdrey has more awards and medals on his mantelpiece than most swimmers have flakes in their breakfast cereal, but he hates comparisons with Michael Phelps. Phelps would be lucky to be compared to Cowdrey, we reckon.

 

Esther Vergeer

Esther Vergeer from the Netherlands has won 21 Grand Slams, and the last three Paralympic tennis titles. AFP / ALEXANDER KLEIN Source: AFP

Esther Vergeer, wheelchair tennis, Netherlands

The 31-year-old Dutchwoman is the only disabled athlete ever to pose nude for ESPN The Magazine?s annual Body Issue. She also happens to boast a tennis record which would put both Williams sisters and Martina Navratilova to shame. With 21 Grand Slam titles to her name, it?s no surprise she has won the last three Paralympic singles gold medals and once boasted a winning streak of 450 games. Perhaps just as impressively, she doesn?t appear to be a grunter. Vergeer was left a paraplegic aged just eight, after there were complications in an operation to fix blood vessels in her spinal cord.

Kieran Modra and his pilot Scott McPhee

Visually impaired cyclist paralympian Kieran Modra, 40, and his pilot Scott McPhee, 20, during training for London 2012 Paralympic Games at Adelaide Super-Drome. Picture: Matt Turner Source: The Advertiser

Kieran Modra, track cycling, Australia

It?s a common Paralympic tale. Young sportsperson has bad accident, ends up at Paralympics. In the case of Kieran Modra, the tale has a twist. The 40-year-old South Australian, who has been visually impaired since birth, won two bronze medals in the swimming pool way back at Barcelona 1992. He then switched to cycling and has won six medals including four golds since Atlanta 1996. Then late last year, disaster struck when he collided with a car while cycling to work, breaking three vertebrae. Somehow, he recovered to make it to London, and will ride in tandem cycling, an event where a sighted athlete takes the front seat on a two-person bike.

Pal Szekeres, wheelchair fencing, Hungary

Szekeres is the only athlete ever to win an Olympic medal and a Paralympic medal. The 47-year-old fencer old won bronze in the team foil event at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. In 1991, he was injured in a bus accident and became wheelchair-bound. He has since won medals at five different Paralympics, including three golds. Szekeres has also used his combative skills to good effect in his career in Hungarian politics. He is still among the medal favourites in London.

Jessica Gallagher

Jessica Gallagher won bronze in the Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, and is now competing in London in athletics. Source: Supplied

Jessica Gallagher

Summer or winter, this 26-year-old Geelong athlete shines. Gallagher became Australia?s first female winter Paralympic medallist at Vancouver 2010, with bronze in the women?s visually impaired slalom. (As an interesting coincidence, Australia?s first female Winter Olympic Medallist, Zali Stegall, also won bronze in the slalom.) But enough about the snow. Legally blind since birth due to a condition called macular dystrophy, Gallagher is not just a talented winter sports athlete but a high level track and field competitor who will compete in the women?s long jump and javelin.

Source : AP

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