Australian Paralympians connect with Kobe kids

Australian Paralympians connect with Kobe kids

Australian Paralympic athletes connected with students of Katsuragi Primary school in Kobe, Hyogo prefecture as part of Paralympics Australia’s school engagement initiative, the ENGAGE program designed to allow Japanese school students to meet with Australian Paralympic athletes.

This program was supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Australia-Japan Foundation. In the lead up to Tokyo 2020, Kobe city and Paralympics Australia forged a close relationship. Prior to the 2020 Games postponement, the team was planning to hold its staging camp in Kobe. Kobe is also a Friend of Australia under the Australian Embassy’s AUS+RALLY sports diplomacy campaign and a registered Host Town for Australia in the Japanese Government’s cabinet secretariat’s Host Town initiative.

The ENGAGE program enables the Australian Paralympic team to share the inspirational personal journeys of their athletes in the lead up to the Tokyo 2021 Games, and provides an opportunity to spark the curiosity of the Japanese students and enhance their understanding of Paralympic sports and the Paralympic movement.

On 9 and 10 December, four Australian Paralympians, Monique Murphy (Para-swimming, Rio 2016 silver medallist ), Eliza Ault Connell (Para-athletics, 2019 World Para Athletics Silver medallist and 2004 Athens Paralympian), Sara Walsh (Para-athletics, 2019 World Para Athletics Bronze medallist and 2016 Rio Paralympian) and Jarrod Clifford (Para-athletics, 2019 World Para Athletics Gold medallist and 2016 Rio Paralympian) virtually met with students from Katsuragi Primary school. The four athletes shared their personal journeys of becoming world class para-athletes and their motivations for the Games next year.

The students were very interested in each of the sports and the stories of their disabilities. After the talks, the students were able to ask questions.
When Eliza was asked, “Do you think it was good to have a disability?”, she answered as follows.
“I think I would have had a good life, of course, even if my legs weren’t amputated because of bacterial meningitis, but I still have a really nice life with my disability. Many people, including myself and you, might think getting sick as a sad thing, but it’s given me a lot of opportunities and a loving, fulfilling and happy life. ”

The school engagement exchange was planned to take place in person if not for the COVID pandemic, and ended up being conducted online, but it was a valuable experience for the students and they found the words of the Paralympians inspiring!