By Tom Degun

Shingo Kunieda 2February 2 - Japan's wheelchair tennis star Shingo Kunieda (pictured) heads the five athlete shortlist for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athlete of the Month for January after claiming his sixth Australian Open title in Melbourne.

The 28-year-old from Tokyo, who won gold in the men's singles at London 2012, crushed Stephane Houdet of France 6-2, 6-0 in the final in a win that saw him regain his world number one ranking.

Fellow wheelchair tennis player Aniek van Koot of the Netherlands is also shortlisted after she won the women's singles title at the Australian Open to take the number one spot on the world rankings list ahead of compatriot Esther Vergeer, who did not compete.

Next on the list is visually impaired skier Henrieta Farkasova of Slovakia who had two first-place giant slalom finishes at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup event in Sestriere, Italy, as well as a first and second-place finish in the slalom.

She also won one of her giant slalom and slalom runs at the World Cup event in St. Moritz and both of her downhill runs at the Europa Cup in Tarvisio, Italy.

Kozo Kubo of Japan is also on the shortlist after winning all three biathlon sitting events at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup in Wisconsin, USA.

The final athlete on the shortlist is Evan Strong of the United States, who beat 26 other competitors to win the snowboard cross event in the men's lower-limb classification at the IPC Alpine Skiing event in Nevada, USA.

The public has until 12:00 (CEST) next Friday February 8 to vote for which athlete they think should win by clicking here.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]