‘To Rio and be­yond’

Lapthorne has an eye on Tokyo as well as 2016 Par­a­lympic gold medal

Harefield Gazette - - SPORT - By Pippa Field tms-sport@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

WHILE gold at next year’s Par­a­lympics in Rio re­mains his first tar­get, East­cote wheel­chair ten­nis star Andy Lapthorne in­sists he will not be con­tent to stop there.

Three years ago Lapthorne made his Par­a­lympics bow at Lon­don 2012, fail­ing to make it past the first round of the sin­gles be­fore pro­gress­ing all the way to the dou­bles fi­nal along­side part­ner Peter Nor­folk where they faced Amer­i­can duo Ni­cholas Tay­lor and David Wag­ner.

Un­for­tu­nately for the Brits it would end in de­feat as mul­ti­ple Grand Slam and Su­per Se­ries win­ner Nor­folk fell short of mak­ing it three con­sec­u­tive Par­a­lympic gold medals.

The Quad­fa­ther, as he was named, re­tired the fol­low­ing year but Lapthorne has been sure to pick up the ba­ton.

The 24-year-old won his first Grand Slam sin­gles ti­tle at the US Open last year, while he started 2015 by se­cur­ing his fourth Aus­tralian Open quad dou­bles ti­tle along­side Wag­ner, be­fore win­ning his sec­ond quad dou­bles Su­per Se­ries ti­tle with fel­low Brit Antony Cot­ter­ill at April’s South Africa Open.

It all leaves thing shap­ing up nicely for the bat­tle for Rio 2016 qual­i­fi­ca­tion, although Lapthorne has his eyes on a num­ber of ac­co­lades.

“For me it’s been quite a suc­cess­ful year so far. I won my first sin­gles Grand Slam at the US Open last year and then de­fended my dou­bles ti­tle at the Aus­tralian Open. I’d love to be num­ber one it’s a mas­sive goal for me,” said Lapthorne, who is cur­rently ranked sec­ond and third in the dou­bles and sin­gles quads world rank­ings re­spec­tively.

“It’s a mas­sive mo­ti­va­tion for me to go to Rio and get a gold. In terms of go­ing to Lon­don and com­ing away with sil­ver, it was great but we were aim­ing for gold. It re­minds me to keep go­ing that ex­tra bit in train­ing.

“We are in the qual­i­fi­ca­tion pe­riod for Rio, so that’s con­stantly on my mind.

“I love this sport and there are a few records my old friend Peter Nor­folk has which I will be try­ing to beat. I still speak to him on a weekly ba­sis and he’s a close friend. I’d love to get the re­sults and ti­tles he has, I see my­self go­ing on past Rio to Tokyo [2020 Olympics] def­i­nitely.

“We’ve got a lot of young and hun­gry play­ers com­ing through and other coun­tries are re­ally start­ing to take no­tice of us, not just in the quads com­pe­ti­tion ei­ther.”

Lapthorne re­cently took a break from train­ing to throw his sup­port be­hind this year’s Na­tional Par­a­lympic Day, which will take place on July 26.

De­signed to help con­tinue the legacy of Lon­don 2012, the an­nual event at the Queen El­iz­a­beth Olympic Park will fea­ture elite ath­let­ics and swimming, as well as pro­mot­ing dis­abil­ity sports, and Lapthorne ad­mits the tim­ing could not be bet­ter with Rio fast ap­proach­ing.

“It’s a great event, it show­cases Par­a­lympic sport to the public. It’s great to be able to go back to the Olympic Park and see the amaz­ing work that’s been done there,” he added.

“It’s such an amaz­ing venue. My fam­ily are from around that neck of the woods and there are some re­ally spe­cial mem­o­ries for me.

“It just gives peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to come to­gether and celebrate what they love about the Par­a­lympics.

“The count­down to Rio is also well and truly on and this is a great re­minder of what they can ex­pect to see next year.”

Tick­ets for Na­tional Par­a­lympic Day are avail­able at http://www. tick­et­mas­ter.co.uk/npd2015/.

n SO CLOSE: Bri­tain’s Andy Lapthorne (right) and Peter Nor­folk af­ter los­ing in the fi­nal of the Quad Dou­bles dur­ing the Lon­don 2012 Par­a­lympic Games

Photo by Ac­tion Im­ages

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