The road to Tokyo has been particularly bumpy for our para-athletes. Over the last five years, but particularly the past 12 months, they’ve had to draw on every bit of their determination, courage, and resilience.
But this week, we finally got to watch their triumphant start to #Tokyo2020!
The Games kicked off on Tuesday night with a spectacular Opening Ceremony, full of colour, life and light. This year’s theme, ‘united by emotion’, is a reminder of the power sport has to bring together people from all walks of life. When we come together, we see that there is more that unites us than divides us. We put our differences aside and see each other as fellow humans. It’s an important message, particularly at the moment.
As for emotions, we’ve already seen them running high in Tokyo this week, with lots of happy tears – in the stadium, and around the world – for the Games that we thought might never happen.
Leading Australia into the stadium were our first dual Paralympic Flag Bearers – the amazing 7 x Paralympic tennis and table tennis player, Danni Di Toro (who I mentioned last week!), and 4 x Paralympian for wheelchair rugby, Ryley Batt OAM.
In the announcement, Australian Paralympic Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin said, “Given what we’ve all gone through over the past 12 months, I could not pick more deserving, more supportive athletes who have been there for each and every one of this Team... I think every member of this athlete cohort knows how special these two are.”
Image via Paralympics Australia Facebook
Sadly, we didn’t get to see our full Aussie contingent because so many of them are competing over the next few days!
Our Australian Paralympic Team shot straight to number one in the medal tally on our first day of play, with 10 medals (6 of them gold!) in track cycling and swimming!
First, we saw 16 out of our 33-strong swimming team leading Australia into competition. Our Dolphins absolutely swept up the medals during the Olympics, and our fantastic para-swimmers are continuing that success! William Martin broke the Paralympic record for men’s 400m freestyle S9, Lakeisha ‘Lucky’ Patterson OAM took gold in the women’s event, and then we saw Rowan Crothers and his best mate, Ben Popham, both grab gold in different events. After his race, Rowan shared a message for young kids with a disability: "Get out there, find something you love and chase it."
I also have to mention Alex Tuckfield, who won his first Paralympic bronze medal at the age of 16!
But it was our cyclists who snagged the very first pieces of Tokyo gold, with record-breaking rides from both Paige Greco and Emily Petricola. Our cycling team is in fine form, so we can expect to see some more epic performances from them this week!
There’s also more swimming to come (and more medals in our sights!), as well as Danni Di Toro in the table tennis, our wheelchair basketball teams, goalball, triathlon and more.
With Australia’s largest and most diverse team ever now in Tokyo, there is so much to look forward to over the next 11 days – once again we’re spoiled for choice with what to watch, and will need multiple screens and social accounts to keep up with the action!
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