The 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, which also mark the 15th Summer Paralympic Games and the first to be hosted in South America, are drawing to a close on Sunday night after over a week and a half of competition. Estonia was represented in Rio by a six-athlete team which headed to the Games with a number of titles and medals, including Paralympic gold, already under its collective belt.
Rio was not the first time Estonia had a team out in the Paralympics. In fact, Estonia has competed in every Summer Paralympics since it regained its independence in 1991, and racked up a total of 19 medals along the way.
Estonian swimmer Marge Kõrkjas alone has taken home seven of them — two golds, four silvers and a bronze — as souvenirs from four different Summer Paralympics, and Sirly Tiik, who carried in the Estonian flag at the opening ceremony of this year’s Paralympics on Sept. 7, earned a gold and two bronzes herself in Sydney in 2000 — for javelin, high jump and shot put, respectively.
This, of course, isn't even counting appearances at four Winter Paralympic Games — in 1992, 1994, 1998 and 2002 — which also yielded a bronze for Team Estonia in Lillehammer, Norway.
While this summer’s Games didn’t end up fruitful as measured in hardware earned, the six Estonian Paralympians, among them four athletes making their Paralympic debut, will hopefully come home from Rio following the closing ceremony with positive memories of strong performances in their four events.
Here are the six athletes who represented Estonia at the 2016 Summer Paralympics as well as their results in Rio:
Elisabeth Egel, 15
-Women's 50m freestyle - S11: 10th place overall
-Women's 100m backstroke - S11: 10th place overall (1:28:28)
-Women's 200m individual medley - SM11: 5th place overall (2:55:62)
Egel, a native of Tallinn, was born blind, however she took up swimming upon her friend's encouragement in 2006. Prior to Rio, she counted her silver medal win in the 2014 IPC Swimming European Championships as her biggest accomplishment. The Estonian Paralympic Committee named Egel Estonian Youth Athlete of the Year in 2013 and 2015.
Besides swimming, Egel also enjoys reading, singing and playing the piano and flute.
Mari-Liis Juul, 36
-Women's road race C4-5: 15th place overall (2:35:02)
-Women's time trial - C5: 9th place overall (32:11:31)
Estonia's delegation to Rio was originally slated to include five Paralympians, however as Russian athletes were banned from the Games, Juul received a last minute invitation to compete in Rio, which she admitted was a bit shocking, albeit a pleasant surprise. Before racing, Juul said she was excited. "This will surely be the hardest race of my career so far, but I am ready for the challenge."
Egert Jõesaar, 22
-Men's discus throw - F43/44: 8th place overall (46.61m)
Jõesaar, a discus-thrower with impaired mobility who was ranked 10th worldwide before the Games, threw his personal record of 46.72m this May. Jõesaar got involved in athletics in 2009; his current trainers are Priidu Niit and Mart Olman.
Jõesaar was the first Estonian with impaired mobility to compete in an athletics event since the 1996 Summer Paralympics in Atlanta.
Kardo Ploomipuu, 28
Previous Paralympics: 2004 Athens; 2008 Beijing; 2012 London
-Men's 50m freestyle - S10: 14th place overall (00:26:08)
-Men's 100m backstroke - S10: 9th place overall (01:03:03)
Ploomipuu, who began to train in swimming in 2002 under trainer Õnne Pollisinski, and trains twice per day, is the current defending European Champion and came in fourth overall in the most recent World Championships. He also won bronze in the 100m backstroke in the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, and has been recognized as Estonia's Para-Athlete of the Year for the past eight years in a row.
Sirly Tiik, 42
Previous Paralympics: 2000 Sydney; 2012 London
-Women's shot put - F20: 8th place overall (11.39m)
Tiik, who became involved in sports as a grade-school student already, won gold at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney with a world record-setting javelin throw, and rounded those games out with an additional bronze each in high jump and shot put. At the 2012 Paralympics in London, she came in 5th overall in shot put. She has trained under Liivi Rünk since 2004.
Brenda Tilk, 22
-Women's 50m freestyle - S7: 10th place overall (00:38:01)
-Women's 100m freestyle - S7: 11th place overall (01:23:85)
-Women's 100m backstroke - S7: 13 place overall (01:38:99
Tilk, a native of Tallinn whose bones and joints did not fully develop as a result of a congenital disorder, is currently ranked 8th-13th worldwide. She began swimming at 3 years old and made her international debut in 2009. She considers her qualifying for the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland to be one of her most memorable achievements.
Team Estonia in 2016
Total number of Estonian Paralympians: 6
Paralympic debuts: 4
Veteran Paralympian: Kardo Ploomipuu (4th Paralympics; 1 Paralympic medal)
Most decorated Paralympian: Sirly Tiik (3 Paralympic medals; 3rd Paralympics)
Oldest Paralympian: Sirly Tiik (42)
Youngest Paralympian: Elisabeth Egel (15)
Average age: 27.5
Most-represented event: Swimming (3 of 6 Paralympians)
Top result: Elisabeth Egel, 5th place, Women's 200m individual medley
For more info and pictures from the Estonian Paralympic Committee, visit the EPK's Facebook page here.
For more stats and information on the 2016 Summer Paralympics, visit the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games homepage here.
To view free footage and highlights from the 2016 Summer Paralympics as well as previous Paralympics, visit the ParalympicSportTV Youtube channel here.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla