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Dorset athletes to cheer on at the Rio 2016 Paralympics

PUBLISHED: 11:06 06 September 2016 | UPDATED: 11:06 06 September 2016

Paul Blake celebrates winning the men's 800m T36 final at the IPC Athletics World Championships in 2015 (Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images)

Paul Blake celebrates winning the men's 800m T36 final at the IPC Athletics World Championships in 2015 (Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images)

2015 Getty Images

Andy Greeves profiles some of the athletes flying the flag for both Great Britain and Dorset at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio this month

Alice Tai, Swimming

At 17, Poole-born swimmer Alice Tai is one of the youngest representatives of Team GB at the Paralympic Games in Rio. The Bournemouth Collegiate pupil has won medals at both the European and World Championships, including three bronze and a gold at the IPC World Championships in Glasgow last year.

“I got an email back in April confirming my selection but we had to keep it a secret for a number of weeks,” says Alice, who has put her A-level studies on hold so she can focus fulltime on her swimming. “That was quite hard when my friends at school were asking ‘when will you know if you’ve been selected?’ and I already knew!”

Alice initially got into swimming through her parents. “Living on the south coast they felt it was important that me and my brother to be comfortable around water. We had swimming lessons and then when I was eight I joined the Seagulls Swimming Club in Christchurch.”

Alice, says she was inspired to take part in Rio after she carried the Paralympic torch through Blandford, prior to the London Games. “That experience was one of the biggest motivating factors for me to want to compete in a Paralympics. I can’t believe four years on I’m about to have that opportunity.” Find out more at britishswimming.org.uk.

Cheer Alice on via Twitter @Alice_Tai725

Alice Tai wins Bronze in the Women's 100m butterfly at IPC Swimming World ChampionshipsButterfly S10 Final. (Simon Wilkinson - simon@swpix.com)Alice Tai wins Bronze in the Women's 100m butterfly at IPC Swimming World ChampionshipsButterfly S10 Final. (Simon Wilkinson - simon@swpix.com)

Holly Neill, Athletics

As a teenager Holly Neill, who comes from Chantmarle near Dorchester, competed in para-equestrian dressage before her focus turned to athletics.

Born with dwarfism, Neill entered the 2009 World Dwarf Games in Belfast winning medals in discus, javelin and shot put.

A year later she represented Great Britain at the IWAS World Junior Championships, winning gold in the shot put and bronze in the javelin and discus. In 2011 she took gold and silver.

Neill missed out on selection for London 2012, but won bronze in the discus at the IPC World Athletic Championships in 2013.

Having captained the British team at the IPC European Championships this year, where she won bronze in the discus, the 27-year-old looks a near certainty for inclusion in Great Britain’s squad for the Paralympics in Rio this summer. Find out more at paralympics.org.uk.

Holly Neill of Great Britain Paralympic Team hopes to beheading out to Rio (2015 British Athletics)Holly Neill of Great Britain Paralympic Team hopes to beheading out to Rio (2015 British Athletics)

Paul Blake, Athletics

Dorchester-born athlete Paul Blake made his Paralympic debut at London 2012, winning silver in the 400m T36 event and bronze in the 800m T36. His passion for running started in the Dorset countryside. “My parents live in Charlton Down and one of my earliest memories is going for runs around the farm land there,” says Paul, who has five siblings including his twin brother Alex. “My brother and sisters all had bikes but I couldn’t cycle because of my Cerebral Palsy so I used to run behind them.”

The first sport Paul played was basketball but because he wasn’t getting that much court time he started to go along to an athletics club in Dorchester. “I did it because I really enjoyed running,” confesses Paul. “But two years in my coach entered me for a race. Things all went from there really.”

The 26-year-old, who trains at the University of Bath, has a host of World and European medals to his name and is aiming for double gold in Rio 2016.

Paul says his biggest rivals are the Russian’s Evgenii Shvetcov and Artyom Arefyev. “My preparations have been going well so far, so I think I have a very decent chance of those gold medals!” For more information visit teambath.com.

Cheer Paul on via Twitter @wizards_1

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