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The mood in the ParalympicsGB camp is “extraordinary” on the eve of the Tokyo 2020 Games, according to chef de mission Penny Briscoe.
A British team made up of 227 athletes across 19 of the 22 Paralympic sports are gearing up to begin competition in Japan after a challenging build-up severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Briscoe said the athletes she has encountered cannot wait to get started.
“I think it’s fair to say the mood in the camp is extraordinary. It’s a mix of excitement, anticipation and elation,” she said.
“The athletes are just pinching themselves. One of the shooters who has just landed said ‘I didn’t believe it until I touched down in Tokyo’.
“I think we’re in good shape, and as a team we’re really looking forward to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.”
Sally Munday, the chief executive of the UK Sport agency which allocates funding to Olympic and Paralympic sports, backed the team to add to the feelgood factor generated by Team GB at the Olympic Games which ended earlier this month.
“We know that there’s a glow that will already be around the British team that are there now in Tokyo and that the Paralympian delegation is going to create even more extraordinary moments to engage us as they prepare to realise their own dreams at the Games,” she said.
Everyone at UK Sport wants to wish @ParalympicsGB the very best for the Tokyo Paralympic Games that are just a week away 💫
— UK Sport (@uk_sport) August 17, 2021
“We also know that the journey to the start line for a lot of our athletes has not been easy.
“Whilst managing their own personal and sporting challenges, they’ve had extended periods of shielding and lack of competition because of the pandemic.
“Paralympians are all too aware of the challenges that we’ve all dealt with in the last 18 months, but it has impacted them in the most extraordinary way. But we know that they are here and ready now to make us all proud.”
Unlike the Olympic squad, British Paralympians compete in the knowledge that funding for the Paris 2024 cycle has been secured, with the Government announcing a £232million package just over a week ago.
Munday said uncertainty over funding had the potential to be “an unnecessary distraction” to athletes and support staff who rely on it, but said in any case the athletes were focused on the “here and now” of Tokyo.
Briscoe said Covid-19 protocols among the British delegation were robust, with just one positive case so far confirmed.
A staff member working with the para-swimming team tested positive, which led to two athletes being identified as close contacts.
Briscoe said the athletes had been able to continue training but were taking all the isolation measures required.
“The process that is in place is very robust and there is 100 per cent adherence from Paralympics GB in terms of being part of the solution of a safe, secure, and successful Games here in Tokyo,” she said.
Briscoe said the entire delegation had been offered the opportunity to be double vaccinated ahead of the Games, and said the take-up had been around 99 per cent.