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Who are your Paralympic hopefuls?

Tony Garrett | 13:37 UK time, Monday, 12 November 2007

In just under a year's time the 13th Paralympics gets under way in Beijing.

The Paralympics have certainly grown in numbers and stature since the first Games in Rome in 1960. Those first Paralympics which were held in same venue as the Olympics', saw 400 competitors from 23 countries taking part.

Next year approximately 4000 athletes from 150 different countries will compete in China.

What can we expect from the organisers of the Games and how well will they be attended and supported?

Will the transportation system cope and will the Chinese authorities have improved the access in and around the city?

What will be the Chinese people's reaction to seeing so many disabled athletes and spectators for the first time?

How will the mass media cover the Paralympic Games?

Many questions to ask in the build up to what should be an amazing sporting festival.

Media coverage has greatly increased in the past few Games with the Barcelona Games in 1992 benchmarked in organisational excellence but the real breakthrough was the 2000 Sydney Games where record crowds witnessed a new level of competition and subsequent media coverage.

It's expected that more than 3000 of the world's media will be accredited to cover the Games.

Certainly in the BBC our television coverage of the Paralympics has increased from a 40-minute post produced delayed production in Atlanta, to daily 45-minute programmes transmitted on BBC TWO primetime television from Sydney.

The Athens Games saw us take the next step forward with 90-minute live programmes each day, Tanni Grey-Thompson winning gold during breakfast time and live coverage of GB men's basketball team winning bronze.

As the athletes ensure that they are top shape for Beijing, we here at BBC Sport are gearing up for next year's Paralympics and are looking to expand our coverage, Beijing with it's time difference and cultural experiences offers us some fresh challenges.

What are your hopes/expectations for the Beijing Paralympics?

Who do you think the stars will be?

With China looking to dominate, what are the British expectations? This year has seen most of our teams in action.

Paralympic promise?

Qualification has been the order of the year for 2007 for many of the GB competitors and there have been some positive signs, will this year's results turn into Paralympic medals in China?

The Wheelchair rugby team won the European Championship for the third consecutive time. Those of us present in Espoo, Finland, will remember how it almost ended in tears: With just a few minutes remaining GB were losing to Sweden in their semi-final and only the winner qualified, but the experience of the British squad counted in the end. Will they have the necessary skill and tactics to improve on fourth place in Athens?

Jon Pollock

During September, our Basketball teams were in action at the European Championships one of the best performances of the year was the Women's team comprehensively beating Spain to win bronze and claiming the final European position in next year's tournament. It was rewarding to see Gary Peel's squad at last showing their potential, however they will have to continue their progress as tougher assignments await them in Beijing.

The men, under the guidance of new coach Murray Treseder, qualified as expected but they would have been disappointed not to beat Sweden in the final. With some younger players coming through can they finish in the medals next year, in what is one of the toughest events of the Games?

Although there has been no major competition this year, the athletics season has seen some positive steps forward by the likes of Ben Rushgrove, John McFall, Sophie Hancock, Nathan Stephens, Brian Alldis and Shelly Woods to name just a few. Before he went down with glandular fever Dave Weir had another terrific season including winning the London Marathon.

Wheelchair Tennis has seen a change this year with the experienced Jayant Mistry calling time on a distinguished career and a crop of youngsters making their way. Lucy Shuker has progressed through the world rankings and with Peter Norfolk making a successful return to winning ways after injury, wheelchair tennis is looking in good health ahead of Beijing and London.

Lucy Shuker

It's been a quieter year for Swimming, with no European's this year (after last December's successful World Cup in South Africa). There have been, however, some competitive 'swims' espically in Manchester, Sheffield and Berlin. With a number of world records during the year, GB swimming under the astute leadership of Tim Reddish and his excellent coaching team, high hopes are expected of the squad which seems to have the right balance of experience and youth, however we haven't seen much of the Chinese swimmers.

With floods almost ruining the World Equestrian Championships in July, GB riders again proved they were the best in the world by retaining their team event, in addition there were individual gold's for Lee Pearson, Nicola Tustain and Sophie Christiansen.

During August our cyclists also proved they are currently top of the world by winning 13 golds at the World Championships in Bordeaux.

In Munich at the World Rowing Championships, debutant Tom Aggar claimed gold in the men's arms-only sculls and there was silver for the mixed coxed four in the adapative rowing (this will be a new sport in Beijing).

September saw the GB blind football team become the first football team to qualify for the Paralympics, when the 5-a-side team finished runner-up to Spain at the European Championships. There were only two spots available and to qualify for Beijing was a really creditable performance for the squad.

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