By Nick Butler

Wheelchair dance sport athletes competing earlier in 2013 ahead of the World Championships ©Getty ImagesDecember 7 - More than 160 athletes from nearly 20 countries have arrived in Tokyo for the Wheelchair Dance Sport World Championships which get underway today.

The two-day Championships will be the first major international Para-sport event to take place in the Japanese capital following Tokyo being awarded the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games earlier this year. 

Six sets of medal will be contest across duo events where both dancers use wheelchairs, as well as combi ones where one dancer uses a wheelchair with an able-bodied partner who stands up.

After finishing top at the 2010 World Championships in Hamburg with six medals, the Russians are expected to again be strong.

Leading the way should be Galina Ryzhkova and Viacheslav Osipov, winners of the combi Latin class two from the 2013 Continents Cup in Moscow and current world ranking leaders.

The pair have already registered their intent to win the world title, alongside team mates who together form one of the biggest contingents attending the competition. 

Wheelchair dance sport is a discipline growing in popularity...with Eastern European competitors currently leading the way ©Getty ImagesWheelchair dance sport is a discipline growing in popularity...with Eastern European competitors currently leading the way ©Getty Images

Opposition is likely to be led by Poland, who matched Russia's gold medal haul in 2010 but finished with less medals overall.

Ukraine's team will be looking to better their third place medals table finish from 2010, with their hopes resting on Nadiia and Ivan Sivak, who collected the duo Latin class two title at the 2013 Continents Cup.

Home hopes are likely to be led by Shigeko Koyano and Hiroyuki Kayano in the combi standard class two, but face stiff competition from Russian defending champions Alexander Lyapin and Irina Gordeeva.

At the Opening Ceremony, Mitsunori Torihara, President of the Japanese Paralympic Committee, claimed the Championship should broaden the appeal both of dance sport and of the Paralympic Movement.

"We must continue to spread the word of Parasport and wheelchair dance sport around the world," he said. 

"I call on nations for their cooperation in continuing this wonderful sport so that more people can enjoy it.".

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