When the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games get underway next week, there will be 28 Commonwealth Games Australia Alumni donning the green and gold for the Australian Paralympic Team.
Paralympics Australia has announced its largest-ever squad to attend a Games on foreign soil, with a team of 179 Para-athletes poised to represent Australia at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
The Team size of 179 eclipses the previous record of 175 members who competed at the Rio 2016 Games.
Of the 179 members, 84 will be making their Paralympic debut.
Australia’s Team is comprised of 78 women and 101 men, including three First Nations people.
Australia is due to compete in 18 of the 22 Paralympic sports, including debut sports Para-badminton and Para-taekwondo, equalling the record for the most sports Australia has competed in at a single Games (Sydney 2000).
Amongst the team, there will be 28 Commonwealth Games Australia alumni members who will compete against the world’s best Para-athletes, 22 of the 28 are Commonwealth Games medallists, with members spanning from the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games through to Gold Coast 2018.
The largest contingent of alumni will be taking to the starting blocks in the Tokyo pool, with 15 of the 33 Para-swimmers having competed at the Commonwealth Games.
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The Commonwealth Games continues to provide an important pathway for aspiring Paralympians, with nine members of the Australian Team making their multi-sport event debut at a Commonwealth Games.
This includes swimmer Lakeisha Patterson who made her debut at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games as a 15-year-old, before going on to break a world record and win gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
Among the Commonwealth Games Australia Alumni is wheelchair racers Christie Dawes competing in her 7th Paralympics and Angie Ballard competing in her 6th Paralympics, Commonwealth Games Australia Athlete Advisory Group co-chair Matt Levy competing in his 5th Paralympics and fellow Para-swimmers Ellie Cole competing in her 4th Paralympics and Blake Cochrane competing in his 4th Paralympics.
The team also features Eliza Ault-Connell, who is making her Paralympic return 16 years after competing at the Athens 2004 Games.
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Also among the squad are five Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipients – Alissa Jordaan (Para-athletics), Luke Bailey (Para-athletics), Jasmine Greenwood (Para-swimming), Ricky Betar (Para-swimming) and Jessica Cronje (Wheelchair Basketball).
The Kurt Fearnley Scholarship is a partnership between Commonwealth Games Australia and the Carbine Club of NSW.
The scholarship is named in honour of para-sport legend Kurt Fearnley AO and provides financial support to talented individual para-sport athletes based in NSW.
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Australian Paralympic Chef de Misson Kate McLaughlin paid tribute to the resilience of the selected athletes who have endured many disruptions in order to qualify for the Games.
“The Australian Paralympic Team for Tokyo 2020 should be a source of enormous pride for all Australians,” McLaughlin said in a statement.
“They embody the great strength and diversity of our communities and serve as a beacon for the continued advancement towards a fairer and more inclusive society.
“They also demonstrate the exceptional strength of character that epitomises Australian Paralympians. To qualify for an Australian Paralympic Team is an outstanding achievement. Yet, this time, it has required a unique level of resilience and determination.
“Through unprecedented obstacles, including the one-year Games postponement, as well as travel restrictions and lockdowns which severely impacted qualification pathways, training camps and international competition, our Para-athletes adapted, innovated and forged ahead in pursuit of their goals.
“It’s been a long and difficult road but their time has finally arrived. I can’t wait to do everything possible to create the optimal performance environment for our Team members so they can have a safe and memorable experience in Tokyo.”