Zahra Nemati (Archery)
With three back-to-back Paralympic titles, Nemati is arguably the most popular and successful female Paralympian that Iran has ever produced. Nemati made it to the history books when she qualified for the Rio 2016 Paralympics as well as Olympics with her performance at the 2015 Asian Archery Championships in Bangkok, Thailand. Nemati, who holds a black belt in taekwondo before an accident in 2004 left her with a spinal-cord injury, set a Paralympic record on her way to gold in the women’s individual recurve W1/W2 at London 2012. In Rio 2016, she defended her title before becoming the only second Paralympian to win three titles from different Games at Tokyo 2020.
Haider Ali (Athletics)
Pakistan’s only Paralympic medallist, Ali yet again rewrote the history books when he clinched the country’s first ever Paralympic gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Games. Ali finished on top in the men’s Discus F37 with a Paralympic record throw of 55.26m in Tokyo, and was also instrumental in putting Pakistan on the map with his long jump silver and bronze in Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016, respectively. Ali, who has hemiparesis on the right side since birth, made a dream international debut in 2006 clinching four medals, including a gold in men’s long jump F37, at the 2006 FESPIC Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Avani Lekhara (Shooting)
She is one of the youngest Paralympic champions to come from India. The 19-year-old became the first Indian woman ever to win the Paralympic gold when she won the R-2 women’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 finals with a new Paralympic record. In doing so, she also fetched India its first ever Paralympic gold in Shooting. Lekhara also picked up her second Paralympic medal, a bronze in the women’s 50m 3 position SH-1 event. Going into the Games, she already has made a place for herself with numerous National and International titles. She will be a top prospect for India at the upcoming Hangzhou 2022 Asian Para Games and Paris 2024 Paralympics.
Bonnie Bunyau Gustin (Powerlifting)
He is the most promising powerlifter to emerge from the region. Gustin rose to prominence at the Mexico City 2017 World Para Powerlifting Junior Championships when he won his first major international title. There was no looking back after that. His breakthrough success was followed by a silver medal at the Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2018. At the Nur-Sultan 2019 World Para Powerlifting Championships. Gustin not just defended his juniors title but surprised everyone winning the Senior World title in the men’s up to 65kg category. The 22-year-old put up a wire-to-wire finish at the Tokyo 2020 Games clinching his first Paralympic title with a new Paralympic record in men’s upto 72 kg.
Watchaporan Vongsa (Boccia)
He is one of the most successful boccia players from the powerhouse Thailand. With four Paralympic and three World Championships titles, Vongsa is in a league of his own. The 31-year-old, who took up the sport in 2003, was part of the victorious Thailand mixed BC1-2 team who won the first ever gold medal in boccia at the Paralympic Games, at the 2012 Games in London. Since then, Vongsa has been instrumental in the success of Thailand’s team events in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Paralympic besides World Championships. He also has individual BC2 gold and silver medals from Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Games.
Leani Ratri Oktila (Badminton)
Leani Ratri Oktila is the most successful Indonesian athlete at any single Olympic or Paralympic Games ever. The top doubles shuttler along with her partners clinched the women’s doubles and mixed doubles SL3-SU5 titles while settling for silver in women’s singles SL4 at the Tokyo 2020 Games. The 27-year-old, who has more gold than any other medal in her glittering cabinet, also was a sensation at the BWF Para Badminton World Championships 2019 winning three medals – two gold (singles and mixed doubles) and a silver in women’s doubles SL3-SU5 category. She also has two gold and a silver from the Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games.
Yu Chui Yee (Wheelchair Fencing)
She is Hong Kong’s most prominent athlete who created a sensation at the 2004 Athens Paralympics winning four gold medals in both individual and team events of épée and foil. Yu Chui went on to add more Paralympic medals from Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 (two silver though)—making it a collection of 11 Paralympic medals including seven gold. At the Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games, she clinched five medals including a gold in women’s individual foil event.
Honghzhuan Zhou (Athletics)
The Chinese Paralympian star is a treat to watch when she competes. The winner of five Paralympic and seven world titles, Zhou is one of the world’s best T53 wheelchair racers the sport has ever produced. Having lost the ability to walk at the age of three, Zhou made her Paralympic debut at Beijing 2008, after having taken up the sport four years earlier as a 16-years-old. She immediately made her mark, winning a medal in each of her three races. Since then she has been unstoppable. At the London 2012, she won two gold (400m T53 and 800m T53); a silver (100m T53) and bronze (200m T53) and defended it in Rio 2016.
Enkhbayar Sodnompiljee (Powerlifting)
The 32-year-old is the face of Para Powerlifting in Mongolia for several years now. Having rose into prominence with the bronze medal at the Incheon 2014, Sodnompiljee still considers it as his most memorable moment. He went on to clinch his country’s first Paralympic medal in the sport claiming a bronze in men’s 88kg event. At the Nur-Sultan 2019 World Para Powerlifting Championships, Sodnompiljee made history bettering his own men’s up to 107kg world record with a powerful 247kg lift to give Mongolia the first gold.
Pramod Bhagat (Badminton)
He is the most prominent name in the Para Badminton fraternity in India and will one of their biggest medal hopes at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. Bhagat has been in ominous form this year, having won 10 medals in men’s singles and doubles SL3 category. The 31-year-old extended his golden run of form at the World Championships 2019 in Basel, clinching two gold (singles and men’s doubles) in an impressive manner. This was his third singles Gold at the Worlds. Owing to his achievements, the Asian Para Games 2018 winner has also been nominated for the prestigious National Sports Award 2019 (Arjuna Award) in India.