SLOVAKIA is to field 34 athletes at the 2012 Paralympic Games, which will take place in London between August 29 and September 9. The country’s Paralympic squad consists of 30 physically challenged athletes, three visually disabled athletes and one guide, who will compete in nine events out of a total of 20 presented in London. The athletes left Bratislava with the aim of continuing the successful performance of their predecessors. Since the launch of the independent Slovak Republic, Slovaks have won 79 medals at Paralympic Games to date. Most of the athletes arrived in London on August 24, the SITA newswire reported.
“On Sunday, the Slovak flag in the Paralympic village was ceremonially raised, by which we were definitively accepted into the London Paralympic village,” Ján Riapoš, the chairman of the Slovak Paralympic Committee (SPV), told SITA. “Since Saturday we can train at the sports facilities and get acquainted with the environment where athletes will fight for medals [starting] Thursday.”
For Riapoš, London will be his fifth Paralympics and, together with Rastislav Revúcky, he will defend his men’s table tennis team gold from Beijing.
The Slovak Paralympic team will be slimmer than the one that went to Beijing in 2008. That team consisted of 36 athletes competing in 10 disciplines. They returned with six medals and 24 of them placed in the top eight, which put Slovakia in 39th position among the 146 participating countries, the SVP states on its website.
The most successful discipline was table tennis, in which Slovak athletes won four medals: one gold, two silver and one bronze. The second most successful sport, which also produced a gold medal, was shooting, for which Veronika Vadovičová received the very first gold medal among all the 4011 participating athletes at the XIII Paralympic Games. Third was cycling, with one silver medal.
The best medal hope for the Slovak squad, which features world and European champions and winners at previous Paralympics, is again table tennis, whose players are to the Paralympics what Slovakia’s white-water canoeists are to the Olympics.
Out of the Slovak athletes 13 will debut at this year’s Paralympics. Handless swimmer Viktor Kemény is, at 16, the youngest member of the Slovak team; 66-year-old shooter Jozef Široký Sr is the oldest.
The Paralympics has been gaining more and more attention and respect in the world as well as in Slovakia. For the first time public broadcaster STV will broadcast the opening ceremony live, on August 28, and Paralympics winners will receive the same financial rewards as non-disabled athletes did for their successes at the Olympic Games some weeks ago.