PARALYMPICS: Sawtry College pair will lead the Team GB medal charge
Two former Sawtry College students will be spearheading Team GB's bid for more Paralympics glory in Rio.
Four years ago in London 2012, the hosts claimed 120 medals, 34 of them gold, to finish third in the medal table.
They’re out to improve on that and Lauren Steadman (23) from Sawtry and Matt Skelhon (31) from Stilton are two of the biggest gold medal contenders in the 264-strong Great Britain team.
As reigning world and European paratriathlon champion, Steadman has been made the favourite to top the podium on September 11. But she admits claiming gold won’t be as easy as the statistics perhaps suggest.
After competing at the Beijing and London Paralympics as a swimmer, Steadman switched to traithlon and she soon became very, very good at it.
In fact, up until July 23 she was unbeaten. That proud record came to an end in a World Championship race in Rotterdam when she crashed on the bike section and had to retire.
She was taken to hospital for X-rays on her elbow and face, but there was no serious damage done and she’s fit and raring to go.
And as the excitement continues to bubble with the race just over a week away, Steadman insists she is determined to succeed to thank those who have helped her on her journey to Rio.
She said: “A lot of people have invested their time and effort in me so it’s not just me racing as the athlete.
“It would be fantastic to bring home that gold medal, especially a Paralympic medal, for the country, and I’m doing it just as much for everyone else who has belief in me as much as myself.
“I’m definitely excited,” she said, “but although I’m going in as world number one, anything can happen - just like it did in Rotterdam.
“The rest of the world sees me as favourite because I have such a lead at the moment, but I’m aware that every other girl around the world is trying to beat me so I’m expecting quite tough competition in Rio.”
Skelhon meanwhile is confident he can win another Paralympic medal.
He’ll be competing in his third successive Paralympics and he’s determined to keep up a 100 per cent medal-winning record having won silver and bronze medals in London and a gold in Beijing in 2008.
The current world record holder in the the R6 50m air rifle prone mixed SH1 event said: “I have to be confident, but I’m not taking anything for granted. The standard is so high, one poor shot could cost you everything.
“I’ll be competing against the same shooters in Rio so I know I can beat them all, but I need to be at my best. I’m excited, but I’m also very nervous. I always get nervous before a big event, but when we start competing I’m sure I will be fine. I have a lot of experience now so I know what to expect.”