Paralympic ones to watch for 2015

By Elizabeth HudsonBBC Sport
Emma Wiggs, Lesley Baldwin, Alice Tai, Maria Lyle, Jono Drane and David Phillips
The athletes featured are all hoping to land success in 2015

With the Rio Paralympics only 20 months away, 2015 promises to be another busy year for disability sport.

Among the big events in 2015 are World Championships in athletics, rowing, plus track and road cycling. There will also be major events on home soil, including the World Swimming Championshipsexternal-link in Glasgow and the European Wheelchair Basketball Championshipsexternal-link in Worcester.

BBC Sport takes a look at some of the competitors who will be hoping to make an impact in their respective sports.

Maria Lyle (Athletics)

2015 focus: IPC World Championships, Doha (22-30 October)

Scottish teenager Maria Lyle is one of a host of talented youngsters who are making an impact on the GB Paralympic athletics team.

Maria Lyle

The 14-year-old, who was the youngest member of the GB team, landed double gold in the T35 100m and 200m events at the IPC European Athletics Championships in Swansea.

Lyle, who has cerebral palsy,external-link began athletics when she was eight and, although she achieved the qualifying times for London 2012, was too young to compete.

She started 2014 with a 200m world record in her first major international event in Dubai and now holds the 100 and 200m bests.

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However, the third-year pupil at Dunbar Grammar School is not resting on her laurels. She is working on improving her core strength and technique in 2015 along with coach Tabo Huntley, whom she visits every fortnight.

Having won the British Athletics Young Paralympic Athlete of the Year,external-link Lyle is one of a host of talented teenagers who will be hoping to make an impact at the Worlds in Doha in October - the last major international championship before Rio.

She says: "I sometimes have to pinch myself at what I have achieved in 2014. It has been so nice to have the support from British Athletics and my family to help me become a better athlete but I want to keep improving."

Alice Tai (Swimming)

2015 focus: IPC Swimming World Championships, Glasgow (13-19 July)

Tai anchored the women's freestyle relay squad to gold at the IPC European Championships in Eindhoven in August, having already won silver in the S10 100m backstroke and bronze in the 400m freestyle.

Alice Tai

With her turning 16 in January, Tai is the youngest member of the British Swimming Podium programme. And 2015 will be a busy year, with 10 GCSEs for her to sit at Bournemouth Collegiate School, before she hopes to take part in July's World Championships in Glasgow.

Tai has club footexternal-link and has undergone a series of operations to try to correct the problem. She took up swimming as a youngster, wanting to get strength back in her legs after various procedures.

In October 2010, Tai realised she could be classified to compete in Paralympic competition and she now holds a number of British records.

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Although she missed out on selection for London 2012, she got a sense of the big occasion when she took part in the Olympic torch relay at Blandford Forum in Dorset - and also saw Ellie Simmonds win 400m gold in London.

There is sibling rivalry in her training regime in Bournemouth, where she works alongside her 13-year-old brother, Christian, who is part of England's able-bodied talent programme.

She says: "To compete in a World Championships on home soil would be amazing. I watched the Commonwealth Games and the atmosphere within the pool was incredible. Hopefully that can be recreated and we can experience it first hand."

David Phillips (Archery)

2015 focus: World Archery Para Championships, Germany (23-30 August)

Welshman Phillips, 48, was a talented archer in his younger days, representing Wales as a junior and senior before work and family commitments forced him to give it up.

David Phillips

In 1996, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis,external-link leaving him with weakness down the right-hand side of his body.

After retiring from his job with British Steel in 2012, his wife Angie encouraged him to get out of the house and return to the sport.

Phillips, who lives in Cwmbran in South Wales and trains locally as well as with the rest of the GB squad in Lilleshall, enjoyed his reunion with the sport. By 2013 his performances were good enough to get him classified internationally as a Para-archer.

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He won the recurve section of the 2014 GB selection shoot and made his international debut at the Czech Grand Prix, before going on to represent GB at the European Championships in Switzerland. He won team gold and mixed pairs bronze, as well as finishing fifth in the individual competition.

Having finished 13th in the National Able-Bodied Series in 2014, he is also hoping to get a place on the team for the European Games in Baku.

HE SAYS: "This is a second chance at sport for me and I am grasping it with both hands. I'm fortunate that I had a good technique and I have so much help from ArcheryGB, which is bringing me on ten-fold."

Emma Wiggs (Paracanoe)

2015 focus: European Championships, Czech Republic (1-3 May); World Championships, Italy (19-23 August)

Having been part of the GB sitting volleyball squad at London 2012, Wiggs, 34, has successfully swapped the volleyball court for life on the water as paracanoe prepares to make its Games debut in Rio.

Emma Wiggs

After the experience of London, in which the volleyball team failed to advance from the preliminary stages, Wiggs wanted a new sporting challenge. She was invited to attend a paracanoe assessment session and has taken to it superbly.

As a teenager, Wiggs was in Australia aged 18 on a gap year when she contracted an unknown virus which affected her limbs. Although her arms recovered, her leg did not, though that didn't stop her becoming a qualified PE teacher.

Wiggs was introduced to sitting volleyball in 2010 and enjoyed success but her transition to a different sport has surprised even her.

She won European and World titles in the trunk and arms classification in her inaugural season as a paracanoeist in 2013 and continued her success in 2014, with further European and World crowns. Wiggs is now based with the GB squad in Nottingham.

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Although Wiggs started in the Kayak, her concentration will be on the Va'a boat in the build-up to Rio. That is a more technical boat with an outrigger on the side. The canoeist paddles on one side, with the focus on steering along the 200m sprint course, rather than on strength.

She says: "The power of sport is incredible and the impact of London was a turning point for the Paralympic movement. To be part of that is very special. I want to make the most of it and be part of the best Paracanoe nation in the world."

Lesley Baldwin (Shooting)

2015 focus: IPC Shooting World Cups (March-November) to earn quota places for GB for the Rio Paralympics

The Scotswoman was a member of the military police when she was injured during a combat fitness test in 2004. It caused her brain to malfunction, leading to dystonia,external-link where the brain sends out the wrong signals to the body.

Lesley Baldwin

Several operations failed and she had her left leg amputated below the knee in 2007.

While Baldwin was at the military rehabilitation unit at Headley Court she was introduced to shooting but suffered another period of ill-health. She needed surgery in 2009 to put a box in her chest which would help correct the signals to the brain.

After recovering from that operation, she took up shooting again. Thanks to the assistance of Help for Heroes,external-link which aids wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans to take part in sport, she is a key part of the GB team.

She landed individual silver at the 2013 European Championships and won team bronze in the 50m Rifle 3 position competition at the World Championships in Germany in July.

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Baldwin spends long hours travelling on an almost weekly basis from her home in Blairgowrie, Perthshire to train with the rest of the GB squad at both Stoke Mandeville and Bisley in Surrey

She is back in training after an operation in September to remove the fibula bone from her amputated leg as it was causing her some discomfort. Now she is hoping to make an impact at the sport's 2015 World Cups, with three of the six events also doubling up as Paralympic qualifiers.

She says: "I've had to retrain myself from the way I was taught to shoot in the army. In competitive shooting you have to be still and relaxed, whereas in the army it is a more aggressive style and it took a while to master."

Jono Drane (Judo)

2015 focus: IBSA World Games, Korea (8-18 May)

Jono Drane

Drane, 27, started judo as a teenager to help channel his energy, having struggled at school because of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He represented the full England squad at the 2010 Commonwealth Judo Championships in Singapore, winning bronze.

But having just started his own plumbing and heating business, at the age of 22 he discovered his eyesight was deteriorating as a result of corneal dystrophy.external-link

Drane was eventually persuaded to try visually impaired judo - the main difference compared to the sighted sport is that VI competitors start gripped up with their opponent and maintain that during the bout.

The Norwich man became a full-time athlete in 2013 and is now based at the British Judo centre of Excellence in Walsall.

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He landed bronze at the 2014 World Championships in September in the United States, his first competition in the -81kg category, and is due to start the year at a Grand Prix in Hungary. After that is May's World Games in Seoul and a European Championships later in the year.

As well as his judo training, he is also a patron of the ADHD Foundation.

He says: "Having ADHD can be corrosive but judo brought me structure and was a positive thing. For once in my life it was easy to concentrate on something and it has made a massive difference. I'm hugely looking forward to 2015 to see what I can achieve."

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