Australian para-athletes to watch out for – two months to the Tokyo Paralympics
Ahmed Kelly, para- swimming
Ahmed Kelly a.k.a. Liquid Nails, is a two-time Paralympian, now shooting for his third Games. He was born with underdeveloped arms and legs, and started his life in an orphanage with his brother Emmanuel in Iraq. Ahmed and his brother were taken in and brought back to Australia by a humanitarian worker. Ahmed soon discovered his passion for para sports and his outstanding athletic achievements say it all – winning a silver in men’s 150m individual medley SM3 at the 2019 World Para-swimming Championships.
Ahmed is very grateful to his mother, Moira Kelly, for providing him with a childhood filled to the brim with love and care, and considers her as one of his heroes. Ahmed wants to continue competing for Australia not only for himself but also as a way of giving back to the Australian community.
Melissa Tapper, table tennis
Melissa Tapper is a remarkable table tennis playing, having competed in both the Paralympic and Olympic games in Rio 2016, the first Australian to achieve this feat. Qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics games recently, she will participate in both the Olympics and Paralympics in two consecutive Games.
Born with brachial plexus, Melissa took up table tennis at age 8 and rose through the ranks to become a top junior athlete in the able-bodied team by 18. In 2018, she became the first Australian to win a Commonwealth Games gold medal in table tennis.
“Whether it’s Para or able-bodied, I go in there with the same approach” “No player is Para or able-bodied in my head,” says Melisa in an interview with Tokyo 2020.
Dylan Alcott, wheelchair tennis
Dylan Alcott is an unstoppable force in para sports, having won gold in two different Paralympic sports, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis.
At the age of 17, Dylan played for the Rollers at the 2008 Beijing Games where the team won gold. The team won silver at the 2012 London Games four years later. He then switched to wheelchair tennis, where he won gold in both quad singles and doubles. (The ‘quad’ class is for athletes with additional restrictions in the playing arm, which limits the ability to handle the racquet and manoeuvre the wheelchair.)
Dylan has won all four major titles and now holds the world’s No. 1 ranking in wheelchair tennis.
In 2017, Alcott co-founded a foundation to encourage young Australians with disabilities by helping them build their self-esteem and achieve their dreams. The idea of starting this organisation stemmed from his own struggles growing up.
I’ve always said I do my best work after midnight.
— Dylan Alcott (@DylanAlcott) February 17, 2021
Sarah Walsh, para-athletics
22 year-old Sarah Walsh is a rising star in Australia’s para-athletics community. She finished sixth in the women’s long jump T44 at the Rio Games, her Paralympics debut, jumping an Oceania record of 4.82m. At the 2019 World Championships she leapt an outstanding 5.20m, putting her in third place. Sarah never seems to stop breaking her own record.
Born with fibular hemimelia, Sarah’s parents made the decision to have her left leg amputated when she was 18 months old. When she was 9, her PE teacher noticed that her results were comparable to those of her able-bodied classmates. Sarah has been engrossed in the world of para athletics ever since receiving her first running blade.
Outside of athletics, Sarah enjoys surfing with a waterproof leg. She also dedicates some of her time to raise awareness around limb-loss, working with Limbs 4 Life, an Australian non-profit organisation.
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Read more on Melissa Tapper
Read more on Dylan Alcott
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