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The Tokyo Paralympics Are Here. These Are Some Of The Sports And Athletes To Watch

Flag bearers Melissa Stockwell and Charles Aoki of Team USA lead their delegation in the parade of athletes during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games on August 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

TOKYO — The Tokyo Paralympic Games are officially underway, and will run until Sept. 5.

Hopefully you’ve gotten a glimpse of the opening ceremony — and if not, you can catch it again at 7 p.m. Tuesday on NBCSN, which will lead into live event coverage. All told, the Games will feature 539 events across 22 sports.

So what should you be tuning into over the next dozen days? Here’s the full schedule, and a couple suggestions of events and athletes to watch:

Badminton and Taekwondo make their Paralympic debut

These are the first Games to include badminton and taekwondo, which is the Paralympics’ first full-contact sport ever. Badminton events start on Sept. 1, with medal events beginning Sept. 4. You can catch taekwondo starting on Sept. 2.

Six-time Paralympian Tatyana McFadden will hit the track

Team USA calls University of Illinois alum McFadden its “undisputed queen of the track.” The wheelchair racer is a 17-time medalist in several events, including Nordic skiing in 2014.

And while she’s won many of the world’s Marathon Major races, she hasn’t yet claimed a Paralympic gold medal. She’ll be trying for it on Sept. 5.

Tatyana McFadden, center, and Jenna Fesemyer of the United States compete in the Women’s 5000 Meter Run T53/54 Wheelchair final during the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Trials at Breck High School on June 18, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. McFadden has won 17 Paralympic medals and is looking to pick up more in Tokyo. David Berding/Getty Images

Highly-decorated U.S. swimmer Jessica Long looks to medal again

Long has racked up 23 career medals since her Paralympic debut in 2004 (at age 12), Team USA notes. She took home gold in the 400-meter freestyle in her first three Games, and is looking to medal again in that event on Aug. 31.

The six athletes responsible for legendary podium sweeps in Rio are back

U.S. athletes swept the podium three times in 2016: track stars McFadden, Amanda McGrory and Chelsea McClammer did twice, and Allysa Seely, Hailey Danz (nee Danisewicz) and Melissa Stockwell took all the medals in the inaugural paratriathlon event.

All six are gearing up again for competition in Tokyo.

Hailey Danz (nee Danisewicz), Allysa Seely and Melissa Stockwell pose for photographers after sweeping the first three places in the women’s triathlon PT2 at Fort Copacabana during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on Sept. 11, 2016, in Brazil. They are among the six U.S. athletes that swept the podium in Rio and are competing again in Tokyo. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Seasoned athletes are competing in new events this summer

Twelve U.S. athletes have competed in more than one Paralympic sport. Several are competing in new events this year.

Kendall Gretsch, a two-time Paralympic gold medalist in Nordic skiing, will compete with the U.S. paratriathlon team in Tokyo — alongside Brad Snyder, the legendary swimmer with five Paralympic gold medals in that sport. Snyder’s race is Aug. 28 and Gretsch’s is the following day.

Oksana Masters won a bronze medal in rowing in 2012, then seven more medals as a cross-country skier and biathlete. These are her second games as a handcyclist, and she hopes it will be her first medal in the sport. (Team USA notes that the only other U.S. athlete with three sports to their name is cross-country skier, biathlete and marathoner Aaron Pike — who is also her boyfriend.) There’s more than one power couple at this Olympics!

Plus, U.S. athlete Blake Haxton will compete in two sports: rowing (as he did in Rio 2016) and sprint canoe.

Learn more about Team USA here.

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


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