Nominees - Laureus World Sportsperson Of The Year With A Disability Award

Shobu o uketetatsu. Challenge accepted.
Our nominees for the Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award competed across four different sports, but each of their journeys led to Tokyo and the Paralympic Games in 2021 and all of them broke new ground in their extraordinary lives during a year like no other.
Courage and determination are the price of admission for our Paralympians, but even among the stories that have emerged from these Games over the years, the delayed 2020 Paralympics produced unforgettable moments that were years in the making.
Familiar champions bewildered us with their longevity as they held off a new generation of competitors. We saw a new level of domination from one athlete who is already building a case as the greatest in the history of her sport. New records were set by one man across a dizzying array of distance races. A promise made more than a year before Tokyo celebrated its Paralympians was delivered upon with an extraordinary hat-trick of golds. And in one case, the sporting challenges that each of our nominees undertook ran parallel to a frontline role in the pandemic that redefined the nature of the Games.
This category presents both the International Paralympic Committee and the Laureus Academy with some of the most difficult choices from any of the Award categories, but there is no doubt that this year’s Nominees are an inspirational selection.
Susana Rodríguez had won every title in para-triathlon except one. That changed when she took gold in the triathlon PTVI, but her achievement in Tokyo was only part of her story. When she appeared on the cover of Time magazine in July it was as much for her work as a doctor at home in Spain as it was for her hopes of a first Paralympic medal. Her preparations included three hours daily on a rowing machine, exercise bike and treadmill in the flat she shared with two other health workers. Her dedication – and perspiration – earned her that elusive gold medal a few weeks later.
Sarah Storey became Britain’s most-decorated Paralympian with 17 gold medals following her hat-trick of wins in three events in Tokyo. Storey claimed cycling golds on both the track and the road, where, in the driving rain and thick fog, she produced a white-knuckle descent to see off her younger rivals in a race for the ages. There will be no slowing down in the pursuit of excellence: the 44-year-old has already served notice of her plans to challenge for three more golds in Paris in 2024.
The wheelchair tennis player Diede De Groot was another to set new standards. The peerless Dutchwoman completed the calendar Grand Slam in singles and gold in Tokyo gave her the sport’s first ever Golden Slam. De Groot also won gold in the doubles in Japan and did not drop a set in either competition. At 25, she has now won 11 of the last 16 Grand Slam titles in both singles and doubles. 
Shingo Kunieda was also flawless on his way to singles gold in wheelchair tennis as he became the first player to win three Paralympic titles (following singles victory in Beijing and London) and the only wheelchair tennis player to win medals at five different Games. 
Marcel Hug, the Swiss Para-athletics champion, won four golds at Tokyo in the T54 wheelchair event, claiming the 800m, 1500m, 5000m and marathon races. He broke new ground in the most emphatic way: a Paralympic record in the 5000m heats and world records in the 1500m (in the final at the Japan National Stadium) and marathon, upon his return to Japan for the Oita Marathon, smashing by more than two minutes the mark set by compatriot Heinz Frei in the same race, 22 years earlier.
Three golds, two different sports. That was Jetze Plat’s incredible goal going into the Paralympics. The Dutchman successfully defended his men's PTWC triathlon title, then three days later he won the H4 road cycling time trial, before securing gold in the men's road race the following day. Documenting the pain he was experiencing in his shoulders during one particularly torturous training regime in a blog post entitled Why Am I Even Doing This? written in May 2020, Plat concluded: “Because I want to do everything to get three golds at the Toyko Paralympics.”
Challenge accepted. Or, as they say in Tokyo: Shobu o uketetatsu. 

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