Rio Paralympics 2016: 10 international Paralympic stars to watch

The Paralympic symbol, displayed at Copacabana beach during a sunrise
The 2016 Rio Paralympics will launch with the opening ceremony on Wednesday 7 September
Paralympic Games on the BBC
Venue: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Dates: 7-18 September Time in Rio: BST -4
Coverage: Follow on Radio 5 live and via live text commentary on BBC Sport website and app

BBC Sport looks at some of the international athletes who will be hoping to make an impact at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

1. Elizabeth Marks (USA - Swimming)

US Army Sergeant Elizabeth Marks knows she is lucky to be alive, let alone taking part in her first Paralympic Games in Rio.

The 25-year-old was injured in Iraq in 2010 while serving as a medic, suffering serious hip injuries, but recovered to become a successful Para-swimmer, bidding for the chance for Paralympic success.

Just when she thought the worst was over, she travelled to represent her country at the 2014 Invictus Games in Britain but suffered a respiratory illness which left her on life support for two weeks.

She recovered and after winning gold at the Invictus Games in the United States earlier this year, presented Prince Harry with her medal to give to the medical staff at Papworth Hospital who had saved her life.

She goes into the 100m breaststroke in the SB7 category as the world leader and favourite for gold.

Elizabeth Marks chats to Prince Harry at the 2016 Invictus Games
Sgt Elizabeth Marks chats to Prince Harry at the 2016 Invictus Games

2. Daniel Dias (Brazil - Swimming)

With 10 Paralympic gold medals already, the Brazilian crowds will be cheering on Daniel Dias to more success in his home Games.

Inspired by the achievements of compatriot Clodoaldo Silva at the Athens Paralympics in 2004, he made his international debut two years later, starting a run of success.

Born with a congenital limb deficiency, he won four golds on his Paralympic debut at Beijing 2008 at the age of 20 went two better in London, dominating all of his events in the S5 category and setting four world records in the process.

He was the swimmer of the meeting at last year's World Championships in Glasgow, winning seven golds.

There is seemingly little that his rivals, including Britain's Andrew Mullen, can do to stop him adding to his successes.

Daniel Dias
Daniel Dias was named 2016 disabled sportsperson of the year after winning seven golds at the IPC Swimming World Championships

3. Markus Rehm (Germany - Athletics)

The man known as Blade Jumper will not take part in his main event until the final day of the athletics programme on Saturday, 17 September - but it should be worth the wait.

The 28-year-old jumped 8.40m to win gold at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha last year - a distance which would have beaten Briton Greg Rutherford's winning jump at the 2012 London Olympics by 9cm.

He had hoped to compete at the Rio Olympics but failed to prove his prosthetic leg did not give him an unfair advantage. However, Rehm still hopes to compete against his able-bodied rivals at next year's World Championships in London.

But on the Paralympic front the German is streets ahead of his rivals, having jumped 46cm further than his nearest challenger, Ronald Hertog of the Netherlands, this year with a best of 8.03m.

He will also attempt to guide Germany to a medal in the 4x100m relay for amputee athletes - an event where they beat USA to gold at the Worlds.

Markus Rehm
Markus Rehm has a carbon fibre prosthesis after losing his lower right leg in a boating accident as a teenager

4. Melissa Tapper (Australia - Table tennis)

Tapper created history earlier this year when she became the first Australian to qualify for both the Rio Olympics and Paralympics.

The 26-year-old from Victoria lost in the preliminary round of the singles, while Australia were beaten by North Korea in the first round of the team competition - but that experience should have prepared Tapper well.

Ranked fourth in the world in her Class 10 event, Tapper, who was born with nerve damage to her right shoulder, will be hoping to claim her first Paralympic medal.

She failed to win a medal on her Paralympic debut in London four years ago, but claimed team bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Melissa Tapper
Melissa Tapper follows in the footsteps of Polish rival Natalya Partyka, who competed at both the London Olympics and the Paralympics

5. Jason Smyth (Ireland - Athletics)

Northern Irishman Smyth goes to Rio as the fastest Paralympian in the world and aiming for a third consecutive win over 100m in his T13 category.

The 29-year-old, who is visually impaired, has led Ireland's medal charge along with middle-distance runner Michael McKillop - and the pair will want to add to their tally in Rio.

Smyth made his debut in the 2006 World Championships and since then has claimed titles at European, World and Paralympic level, and also represented Northern Ireland against sighted rivals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Before the London Games, he trained alongside disgraced sprinter Tyson Gay in Florida, but he is now based between London and his Northern Ireland after his wife Elise gave birth to their daughter Evie last October.

While Smyth won double gold in the 100m and 200m in London, his 200m is no longer part of the Paralympic schedule, meaning he has just one chance to win his fifth Paralympic title.

Jason Smyth
Jason Smyth is a four-time Paralympic gold medallist

6. Marlou van Rhijn (Netherlands - Athletics)

The star of female amputee sprinting, Van Rhijn was born without the lower part of her legs and after starting her sporting career as a swimmer, switched to athletics.

She won silver in the T43/44 100m behind France's Marie-Amelie Le Fur at London 2012, but was victorious in the 200m for her first Paralympic title.

Since then she has been unstoppable, beating the world record in her T43 category on numerous occasions and winning double gold at the past two World Championships.

Known as 'Blade Babe', Van Rhijn will be favourite for gold once again in the 100m and 200m, a feat that would cement her place as one of her country's leading sporting stars.

Marlou van Rhijn
Marlou van Rhijn is the world record holder for T43 in the 100m and 200m

7. Ihar Boki (Belarus - Swimming)

Boki's five golds on his Games debut in London saw him become his country's most successful Paralympian and he looks on course to continue that in Rio.

The 22-year-old has a visual impairment and competes in the S13 category, but some of his times are not far off those of elite sighted swimmers.

He won the 100m and 400m freestyle four years ago, along with the 100m butterfly, 100m backstroke and 200m medley.

However, since then the Minsk-born star has gone from strength to strength and at last year's IPC World Championships in Glasgow came away with six golds and four world records.

He goes in seven events in Rio.

Ihar Boki
Ihar Boki is a five-time Paralympic champion

8. Libby Kosmala (Australia - Shooting)

While other 74-year-olds are thinking about an easier life, Kosmala is competing at her 12th Paralympics in Rio.

Kosmala, who made her Paralympic debut in 1972 in Heidelberg as a swimmer, won her first gold medal in shooting in Toronto four years later and has gone on to win another eight.

She vowed to retire after missing out on a medal at London 2012 but the grandmother from Adelaide, whose husband Stan has also competed for Australia at the Paralympics, found it too tough to put away her rifle and will be the oldest competitor in Rio.

As well as personal glory, a medal for Kosmala in Brazil would be a fitting tribute to her former team-mate Ashley Adams, a five-time Paralympian who died from injuries sustained in a quad bike accident in 2015.

Libby Kosmala
Australian shooter Libby Kosmala will be representing her country at a 12th Games in Rio at the age of 74

9. Zahra Nemati (Iran - Archery)

Retaining her Paralympic title would be a memorable end to a history-making summer for Iranian archer Nemati.

The 31-year-old from Tehran took up the sport in 2007 after a car crash left her paralysed and ended her taekwondo dreams.

At the London Paralympics, she became the first woman from her country to win an Olympic or Paralympic gold when she triumphed in the Individual Recurve W1/W2 event and also took bronze in the women's Team Recurve.

Her performances at the 2015 Asian Archery Championships in Thailand saw her secure qualification slots for her nation at both the Rio Olympics and Paralympics and, as well as competing at both Games, Nemati was chosen to carry her nation's flag at the opening ceremony for the Olympics.

She lost to Russia's Inna Stepanova in the opening round of the Olympic event but will hope to be nearer to another Paralympic gold medal.

Zahra Nemati
Paralympic archer Zahra Nemati was chosen to be Iran's flagbearer at the Rio 2016 Olympics

10. Tatyana McFadden (USA - Athletics)

McFadden's journey from Russian orphan to USA's Paralympic wheelchair racing champion is a truly remarkable story.

The 27-year-old was born with spina bifida and spent the early part of her life in an orphanage in St Petersburg, learning to walk using her hands before being adopted at the age of six by American Deborah McFadden.

Since then, sport has been a key part of her life and McFadden has become a force both on the track - winning three golds in London and multiple world titles - and on the road.

In 2014, she also found time to take up cross-country skiing, winning silver in the 1km sprint event at the Sochi Winter Games, watched by her adoptive mother and her Russian birth mother.

McFadden, whose sister Hannah is also on the team, goes in seven events in Rio - and it would be a foolish person who would bet against her winning gold in each.

Tatyana McFadden
American wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden is bidding for seven gold medals in Rio

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