From Zorn to Storey: five great Paralympic athletes

Tokyo 2020

Sarah Storey became the most successful Paralympian in British history with her 17th gold on Thursday (CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP)
Sarah Storey became the most successful Paralympian in British history with her 17th gold on Thursday (CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP)

Tokyo (AFP)

by Daniel HICKS

Cyclist Sarah Storey made history Thursday when she became Britain's most successful Paralympics athlete with her 17th gold and 28th medal of a career that started 29 years ago in the swimming pool at Barcelona in 1992.

Here, AFP Sport highlights five of the greatest Paralympians of all time:

Trischa Zorn (USA) - swimming

The greatest Paralympics medal winner in history, by some distance, visually impaired American swimmer Zorn won 55 medals including 41 golds from Arnhem 1980 to Athens 2004.

Trischa Zorn in the final of the women
Trischa Zorn in the final of the women's 100m Backstroke during the Athens Paralympics (ARIS MESSINIS/AFP)

Born in 1964 with aniridia and classified legally blind, she received two artificial iris implants in 2003 that improved her vision to 20/150 though it did not change her event classification.

The pinnacle of her career came in Barcelona 1992 at the age of 28 where she was the most successful athlete of the Games with 10 gold and two silver medals.

In 2012, Zorn -- who won golds in every discipline, freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke and backstroke -- was inducted into the International Paralympic Committee Hall of Fame.

Heinz Frei (SWI) - Athletics, cycling, cross-country skiing

At the grand old age of 63, Swiss multisports master Frei defied Father Time to win a silver medal in cycling's H3 road race in Tokyo on Wednesday and take his all-time medal haul across summer and winter Paralympics to 35.

Old Swiss master: The majority of Heinz Frei
Old Swiss master: The majority of Heinz Frei's 35 Olynmpic medals came in the last century (ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP)

The silver in the hand-bike event came nine years after Frei's last medals -- a gold in cycling's H2 time trial and bronze in the H1-4 team relay at the London 2012.

But the majority of Frei's 35 Paralympic medals, including 15 golds, came in the last century.

From 1984 to 2000 he won 22 athletics medals, with 11 golds, in wheelchair distances from 800m to the marathon.

He also won eight Winter Paralympics medals in cross-country skiing.

He has yet another medal chance in cycling's H1-H5 mixed team relay later Thursday.

Reinhild Moeller (GER) - Alpine skiing, athletics

Another athlete to enjoy success at both summer and winter Paralympics, Germany's Moeller won 23 medals, including 19 golds in a career that spanned from 1980 in Geilo, Norway, to Torino, Italy, in 2006.

Winter Paralympics great: Reinhild Moeller of Germany (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America/Getty Images/AFP)
Winter Paralympics great: Reinhild Moeller of Germany (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America/Getty Images/AFP)

Moeller, who lost half her leg in a farm accident at the age of three, dominated the winter Paralympics during that time with 19 of her medals coming in slalom, giant slalom, super-G and downhill skiing.

On the athletics track, she competed as a sprinter in 1984 in New York and 1988 in Seoul, winning three gold medals and one silver in the 100m, 200m and 400m.

Daniel Dias (BRA) - Swimming

Signed off in Tokyo from his last Paralympics before retirement with three bronze medals to confirm his status as Brazil's most decorated Paralympian with 27 medals, including 14 golds.

Greatest Brazilian Paralympian: Daniel Dias (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP)
Greatest Brazilian Paralympian: Daniel Dias (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP)

Born without hands, his proudest moments came at his home Games, in Rio de Janeiro five years ago, when he secured four gold, three silver and two bronze medals.

Born in 1988, Dias was inspired to take up swimming after seeing fellow Brazilian Clodoaldo Silva at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.

Sarah Storey (GBR) - Swimming, cycling

All-time great: Britain
All-time great: Britain's Sarah Storey (CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP)

Began as a 14-year-old in the swimming pool at Barcelona 1992, where Storey, who was born without a functioning left hand, won two golds.

It was the start of a monumental sporting career.

Twenty-nine years, three more swimming golds and 12 cycling golds later, Storey on Thursday overtook swimmer Mike Kenny to become Britain's greatest Paralympian at the age of 43.

Such has been her cycling dominance since switching from swimming for Beijing 2008, she completed hat-tricks of victories in all three events she raced in Tokyo.

Storey followed her third successive C5 individual pursuit gold on the track at the Izu Velodrome, where she smashed her own world record, with her third wins in a row in the C5 road time trial and C4-5 road race.

She also won cycling golds in the LC1/LC2/CP4 category time trial and 3km individual pursuit at Beijing and the 500m time trial at London 2012.

© 2021 AFP

AFP Tokyo 2020 Paralympics