American taekwondo athlete Brianna Salinaro is in positive spirits following hip surgery ©USA Taekwondo

American Para-taekwondo star Brianna Salinaro is looking ahead to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games with increased enthusiasm after undergoing surgeries on both of her hips.

The 23-year-old went under the knife in September of last year and in January, with the procedures providing a boost as taekwondo prepares to make its debut on the Paralympic stage.

"I feel so much more flexible, so much stronger and a lot more optimistic about the future," Salinaro said in an interview on the Team USA website.

"The surgeries I've gotten over the past year are going to make me a lot better fighter.

"Coming home with a medal is definitely a goal and something that I think I can achieve."

Salinaro will be the first female athlete to represent the United States in taekwondo at the Paralympics, and qualified for the K44 under-58 kilograms division through her world ranking.

She is also the first taekwondo athlete to compete internationally with cerebral palsy - a situation which has been a huge challenge as her weight division opponents have disabilities such as arm amputations and the loss of toes.

Para-taekwondo is due to make its Paralympic debut at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images
Para-taekwondo is due to make its Paralympic debut at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

Most of her rivals can feel most of their body from the waist down but Salinaro cannot, and she still gets deducted a point for falling over.

"I can envision the way I want to fight," Salinaro, who won World Championship bronze in 2017, added to Team USA.

"But because my legs are so tight and the way that my brain tells my muscles how to move, it doesn't always click right away or right when I want it to. 

"I do have a limited range of motion. 

"I know what I want to do, but my body doesn't fully perform it

"It's definitely not fair, but I'm also the only one competing with CP in my weight division, so if I want to fight, this is what I have to fight.

"And I also think it's another challenge to overcome, and that definitely motivates me."