We saw so many astounding, inspiring, joyful and courageous moments with our Tokyo OLYmpians, and the 12 days of Paralympics are set to be just as jam-packed!
From Tuesday 24 August – Sunday 5 September, we’ll be seeing A LOT more green and gold on our screens!
Australia is one of the top contenders in para-sports, and our Para-athletes are on an exciting trajectory right now. There is more buzz than ever around these Games, and Australia is looking forward to seeing one of our largest and most diverse teams ever in the Paralympics.
This year, 179 Aussies will be competing across 18 sports. 84 of them are making their Paralympic debuts. Among them are both our oldest and youngest competitors: 60-year-old para-archer Peter Marchant, and 15-year old para-swimmer Isabella Vincent. Isabella only started swimming a few years ago and her goal was to compete in Paris in 2024… but this ‘superfish’ has already smashed her own expectations by qualifying for Tokyo in S7 and SB6 events.
Did you know: the ‘S’ classification stands for freestyle, butterfly and backstroke events, ‘SB’ is breaststroke, and ‘SM’ is medley? In para-swimming, classifications 1-10 refer to physical impairment, 11-13 are related to vision, and 14 is intellectual. The lower the number in each classification, the more the athlete’s activity is limited by their impairment. The system is designed for fair competition, and each classification is specific to the sport and event. If you’re not familiar with the different classifications, you can read up on all of them here.
On the other end of the scale, we have soon-to-be 7 x Paralympians Christie Dawes (para-athletics) and Danni Di Toro (wheelchair tennis, and now para-table tennis). To be able to compete at the highest level, and sustain that success over so many years, takes an almost unimaginable level of passion, drive and commitment.
Then we have superstar Dylan Alcott. Dylan started out in swimming and wheelchair tennis as a kid, then made the switch to wheelchair basketball and won his first Paralympic gold medal at just 17 years of age, as part of the Australian men’s team in Beijing! He was also part of the silver-winning Aussie team in London. Then, Dylan did a total 180 back to tennis where he has seen enormous success over the past few years – two Paralympic gold medals in Rio (Men’s Quad Singles, and Men’s Quad Doubles with Heath Davidson who will also be competing in Tokyo), and two Wimbledon singles titles in 2019 and 2021! Dylan is now the number one-ranked player in both singles and doubles… and he will most certainly be hunting for gold in Tokyo!
As will wheelchair racer Madison de Rozario, who is carrying on the legacy of one of Australia’s greatest athletes. Madison has been training with the legendary Louise Sauvage (whose story you can hear on my podcast) in the lead-up to Tokyo, which is sure to give Madison that golden edge!
There’ll be plenty of Aussies cheering for Torita Blake, too. Torita had a heartbreaking start to life, but despite the odds stacked against her, she is not only surviving, but thriving, and showing the next generation what can happen when you run your own race. The 3 x Paralympian is not only inspiring on the track; the proud Dunghutti woman is also an ambassador for the Deadly Choices indigenous health initiative.
I recently had the pleasure of a chat with para-triathlete Nic Beveridge, who is also getting ready to head to Tokyo. His determination is what really inspired me: Nic told me his Dutch rival, Jetze Plat, is ‘like a god’ (Thor, to be specific!) – unbeaten in his classification since 2016. But Nic is not letting that stop him in going all-out for gold. I love that he knows exactly what he’s up against, and he is excited to face the challenge head-on!
Our Paralympians are amazing. They show us that there is really no limit to what we can achieve. Through sport, they are leading the way to a future that is inclusive, diverse and equitable for all.
And if you’re feeling inspired to be like our Paralympians, make sure you follow the Australian Paralympic Team to hear about events like their Come & Try Days! You can get involved by checking out their website, or find the team on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
I’m so excited to put on the green and gold again, and to yell at the TV – “Come on Aussie!!!”
... In the meantime, I highly recommend watching Rising Phoenix! The 2020 documentary shows the Paralympic Games through the eyes of the athletes (including Aussie para-swimmer Ellie Cole and wheelchair rugby player Ryley Batt) and it’s just fantastic: honest, inspiring, powerful and a must-watch!
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