Paralympians are set a target of 103 medals at Games

BRITAIN’S Paralympians are preparing for a second summer gold rush – after being set the target of clinching at least 103 medals at the upcoming Games.

The team, which finished second in the overall tally in the last three Games, is expected to make the podium in at least 12 sports. Officials expect the team to land in second place again this year – when they will be spurred on by record crowds of home support.

Organisers have revealed the event is on track to become the first-ever sold out Paralympic Games in the event’s 52 year history. British Paralympic Association chief executive Tim Hollingsworth said: “Paralympics GB is going into these Games better prepared than ever before and we are all ready to give everything to achieve our target of second in the medal table.

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“Our athletes will be competing in full venues where winning medals in front of an excited home crowd will give us a great platform to help shift perceptions of Paralympic sport and ensure that our athletes get the recognition they deserve.”

In Beijing four years ago, GB finished with 102 medals: 42 golds, 29 silvers and 31 bronzes, from 11 sports. They finished second behind hosts China, which scooped 89 golds.

The target is set by the government’s funding body UK Sport which has backed the 2012 campaign with a record £49 million of funding.

The British Olympic team had been set a minimum target of 48 medals for London 2012, but well surpassed it finishing with 65 medals, including 29 golds.

Many sports officials believe the Paralympians will be spurred on by the Olympic success to date and could make it a record-breaking year for medals.

Britain is expected to deliver approximately one medal for every hour of competition in the Paralympics, with between 40 and 50 expected to be won in the swimming pool. The athletics target is between 17 and 30 medals, with cycling aiming for between 15 and 23.

Liz Nicholl, chief executive of UK Sport, said: “The collective targets of all the Paralympic sports show us our Paralympians are in a great position to deliver more magical and inspirational performances to keep the overwhelming sense of national pride in Great Britain at an all-time high. Our Paralympians are among the best prepared and supported in the world – with cutting-edge technology, science and medical support, excellent coaching, and the support of our enthusiastic home crowds, they are sure to be a force to be reckoned with on home turf.”

Scots make up 9 per cent of the 288 athletes in the team and a number of them have already been earmarked as potential medal winners in a range of sports, including swimming, wheelchair rugby, cycling and archery.

Gavin Macleod, chief executive at Scottish Disability Sport, said: “We are delighted to have 27 Scots selected for the Paralympics GB team. Scots will compete in 11 of the sports featured in London. With 73 per cent competing in their first-ever Games, we are confident we can maintain this level of representation moving forward.

“There seems to be a very real excitement around the Games in Scotland and are delighted that so many people are planning to travel to London to take in the competition. These Games will inspire a new generation of athletes and will raise public perceptions of disability sport to a new level.”

An extra 45,000 tickets for the Games went on sale yesterday sale ahead of the 12-day event which starts on 29 August. Just over 2.2 million tickets of the 2.5 million have already been sold. The cost of seats range from range from £5 to £45.

Sebastian Coe, chair of Games organisers Locog, said he was “delighted” the support for the Games was continuing as fans tried to buy tickets.

But many fans were left empty-handed after entering payment details on the Games’ website only to find the tickets had already been sold.

Some took to social networking sites to complain about the mix-up. Locog chairman Lord Coe said: ‘We are working flat out to stage a memorable Paralympic Games and I’m delighted the enthusiasm and support for our Games from the UK shows no sign of wavering.”

Baroness Sue Campbell, chair of UK Sport, believes the Games will have a profound effect on the country. She said: “The Paralympians really display the best of the human spirit. You are watching athletic excellence, but you are also watching something very special about who we are as people.”