The International Paralympic Committee has added 12 swimmers to its existing list of 19 Swimmers to Watch for the 2016 Paralympic Games.
Joining stars like Jessica Long and Daniel Dias, already on the list, are a crop of new stars, including American Brad Snyder, who has gained fame as one of the best S11 sprinters in the world after losing his vision while fighting in the war in Afghanistan.
Also added to the list is Canadian Auriele Rivard, who emerged from the shadow of former countrymate Summer Mortimer this summer with 6 ParaPan American Games gold medals and a World Record in the 100 free. The effort earned her an honorable mention for SwimSwam’s Female Para-Swimmer of the year.
See the full list of swimmers to watch, according to the IPC, here. Bios of the newest members, courtesy of the IPC, are below.
Yelyzaveta Mereshko (UKR)
Para-swimming fans can be in doubt about the potential of Mereshko to deliver a major upset at Rio 2016. The Ukrainian beat Great Britain’s world and Paralympic champion Eleanor Simmonds in the 400m freestyle S6 in an exhilarating race at the 2015 World Championships.
Giseong Jo (KOR)
Jo first rose to international prominence at the Incheon 2014 Asian Para Games in South Korea, winning gold in the 200m freestyle S4 and a series of other podium finishes. Less than a year later, he went on to win two world titles in 100m and 200m freestyle S4.
David Grachat (POR)
Grachat won his first World Championships medal in 2015 with bronze in the 400m freestyle S9. This season will see him compete as home favourite at the 2016 IPC Swimming Open European Championships in Funchal.
Viacheslav Emeliantsev (RUS)
Emeliantsev was unstoppable on his World Championships debut in 2015, setting three world records on his way to triple gold. In the 200m individual medley SM14, Emeliantsev brought down the mark in the heats and finals to beat reigning Dutch world champion Marc Evers.
Bradley Snyder (USA)
Since winning gold at London 2012 in the 400m freestyle S11 on the one year anniversary of losing his sight in Afghanistan, Snyder has grown into one of the USA’s favourite, and most successful, para-athletes. The 2015 season brought Snyder’s World Championships debut and a gold medal sweep in the 50m, 100m and 400m freestyle S11.
Aurelie Rivard (CAN)
Rivard won six gold medals at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games to become the most decorated female athlete across all sports and third most medalled overall. The Canadian also broke New Zealander Sophie Pascoe’s 100m freestyle S10 world record in Toronto, following on from her first world titles in the 50m and 400m freestyle just weeks before.
Keichi Kimura (JPN)
Targeting the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Kimura has scored double gold in men’s S11 events at the last two World Championships. He will go head-to-head with Snyder in Rio for what will be his third successive Paralympics.
Carlos Serrano (COL)
Serrano’s debut season in 2015 saw him win World Championships gold in the 100m breaststroke SB7in world record time. Then, at the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games, he stormed to an impressive five gold medals, all in Games record times and with a new Americas record in the 50m butterfly S7.
Kevin Paul (RSA)
The Beijing 2008 Paralympic champion has returned to his best form in recent seasons. In early 2015, he smashed the 200m breaststroke SB9 world record in the heats at the national trials. That meant he became the first South African para-swimmer to make the able-bodied finals at Nationals, even though the race is not on the Paralympic programme. He also retained his 100m breaststroke world title from 2013.
Ellie Cole (AUS)
Triple Paralympic champion Ellie Cole nearly retired after London 2012. However reconstructive surgery on her shoulder in 2013, which could have seen her out of the pool indefinitely, made her realise how much swimming meant to her. After recovering from the operation, Cole returned to training and in 2015 went on to win her first world titles in the 100m freestyle S9, 100m backstroke S9 and 4 x 100m medley relay 34 points.
Yang Yang (CHN)
Yang set four world records in three events in 2015, setting himself up perfectly to defend his four golds medals from London 2012. One of those, in the 200m freestyle S2, was on his way to gold at the World Championships. There he also picked up a title in the 50m backstroke S2.
Bethany Firth (GBR)
At the 2015 British Para-Swimming International Meet in Glasgow, Great Britain, Firth set new world records in the 200m individual medley, 100m backstroke and 100m breaststroke S14. Although she missed the 2015 World Championships due to injury, Firth will be back in action in time for the 2016 IPC Swimming European Open Championships where she will go for her first European titles ahead of her second Paralympic Games at Rio 2016.