After 12 days of fierce competition, the 2020 Paralympic Games ended with a spectacular Closing Ceremony on Sunday night. Tokyo’s ‘Harmonious Cacophony’ looked like a carnival-inspired video game brought to life: bright colours, pumping tunes, breakdancing, stilt walkers, butterflies on unicycles, and of course, a pop of fireworks!
4 x Paralympian and 17 x medalist Ellie Cole had the honour of carrying the flag for Australia, while the rest of our Paralympians watched the broadcast from the Athletes’ Village. In her interview with Channel 7, Ellie said of the Paras, "It's changed my life, and people's lives around the country, just by doing what we love so much".
Back at home, each of our Tokyo OLYmpians and Paralympians had their image projected onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House. It was an iconic moment! Our athletes are truly the pride of our nation, and so inspiring at a time when we need it most.
Every one of our Paralympians should be proud of the way they have represented Australia. As Ellie said when she addressed the team,
"Every single time you wear the green and gold, regardless of the result, you are part of a legacy that is so important to all of us".
That legacy was evident when we watched Paralympic legend, and now coach, Louise Sauvage hugging Madison de Rozario after a nail-biting gold medal win in the T54 Marathon. Madison’s bag will be a bit heavier on her way home, after securing two gold medals and one bronze in these Games.
As will Jaryd Clifford’s: the 22-year-old runner is coming home with two shiny silver medals (T13 5000m, T12 Marathon) and a bronze (T13 1500m). Jaryd made his Paralympic debut in Rio, and his star just continues to rise – his 1500m times rival some of the Olympic competitors we saw a few weeks ago. So, might we see Jaryd competing as both an OLYmpian AND Paralympian in 2024?
“I am a Paralympian,” Jaryd said in an interview with SMH “I was raised in the Paralympics movement. It has always been my inspiration, what I have always wanted to be. I could compete against many of the Olympians, but I am a Paralympian and very proud to be so.”
The hug between quad wheelchair tennis gold medallist Dylan Alcott and up-and-coming 18-year-old Dutch competitor Niels Vink was another example of how strong the legacy is… And so were the smiles on the faces of Vink and his doubles partner Sam Schroder as they were entertained by the antics of Alcott and his doubles partner Heath Davidson.
Our swimmers will also be lugging some extra baggage with them, with a total of 33 medals for our Dolphins team. We saw Will Martin smash the S9 100m butterfly record twice in one day(!), the camaraderie between our golden men’s medley relay team, and our silver-stealing women’s freestyle relay team.
And I have to mention Grant ‘Scooter’ Patterson who I got to meet earlier this year in Cairns. Scooter is always a crowd favourite and it’s easy to see why; his three Tokyo medals are only outshined by his bubbly energy and zest for life!
Sunday’s ceremony finished with the passing of the Paralympic flag to Paris. Lucky for us, we only have three years to wait until the Games in Paris!
Until then, let’s remember how much our athletes have inspired us over the past six weeks, and let’s keep up the support for these amazing humans.
Header image: Photos of Australian Paralympians being projected onto the Sydney Opera House. Image by New South Wales Government.
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