The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics have come and gone and what a magnificent celebration of disability sport! For two glorious weeks the focus of the world, and the Australian public via excellent TV coverage, was on the games and the outstanding quality of the sport.
Importantly, this year’s games also promoted a broader message of equality for people with disability in all aspects of their lives via the excellent WeThe15 campaign. The movement plans to initiate change over the next decade by bringing together the biggest coalition ever of international organisations from the world of sport, human rights, policy, communications, business, arts and entertainment. At a time when diversity and inclusion are hot topics, the 15% who have a disability want effective change to remove the inequality and inactivity.
While so many Aussies did us proud in Tokyo, we were also closely watching the 21 Victorian DSR members and previous Victorian Disability Sport and Recreation award winners in action including the following medal winners:
Jaryd Clifford won two silver medals in the mens T13 running 5,000m and marathon to add to a bronze in the 1,500m. A highlight was after Jaryd’s silver medal in the 5,000m when he was asked if he was disappointed not to win gold he said the following which reflects DSR’s key interest in the Paralympic Games:
“If we can change anyone’s life, as running has changed my life, then sport is so much more than a medal. It’s about if we can touch people’s lives. If I’ve done that today, for anyone, that’s a gold medal in another way.”
Ellie Cole won silver in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay and bronze in the 4x100m medley swimming relay making her Australia's most decorated female Paralympian, with 17 medals from four Games.
Isis Holt won two silver medals in the T35 running 100m and 200m
Dylan Alcott and Heath Davidson won the silver medal in quad wheelchair tennis doubles while Dylan won the gold medal for singles and then retired as a Paralympics legend, having won a total of 4 gold and 2 silver medals in the sports of wheelchair tennis and basketball with DSR playing an important role in his journey.
Carol Cooke won a silver medal in the T2 cycling time trial but crashed in the road race in treacherous conditions. Not bad for a 60-year-old!
Maria Strong won a bronze medal in the F64 seated Shot Put.
Ahmed Kelly won the silver medal in SM3 Men's 150m Individual swimming medley
We also celebrated the involvement of six DSR athletes from our Victorian wheelchair rugby program who made up 50% of the 12 players in the national team, also known as the Steelers. Shae Graham made history by becoming the first-ever female to play for Australia in the mixed wheelchair rugby competition at the Games. The team was defending their gold medals won in London and Rio but were hampered by a lack of training together over the past 18 months following various COVID restrictions in various states and finished 4th, beaten by Japan in the bronze medal match.
During the Games, we also touched base with many DSR members who had been involved in previous Paralympic Games including our co-founder Kevin Coombs who attended the first Games in 1960 in Rome (and is featured in a story in this edition) and also with Jan Randles who corrected some of the media reports about who was the first-ever Australian marathon gold medallist (which was Jan of course in 1984).
After such an extraordinary event it's important to ask, what’s next?
See other articles in this edition to see how we’re already working more closely with other organisations to make the pathway clearer and increase the capacity of the sector so the next Paralympian, or just the next recreational participant, has greater choice and access on their journey towards participation in sport and recreation.