More Australian para-athletes to watch out for – Tokyo Paralympics
Some athletes from the Australian Paralympic Team for Tokyo 2020 are born with disability, while others have become para-athletes after they came across accidents. Here is the last-minute quick guide to four athletes including a gold medalist from Rio 2016.
Lauren Parker, para-triathlon
Lauren was an elite athlete representing Australia at able-bodied competitions. In April 2017, she was training and riding her bike travelling at 45km/h when both her tyres blew, crashing into a guard rail. Among her multiple major injuries was paraplegia. After spending months in a hospital, going to San Diego for rehabilitation led her to focus on Paralympics.
“There were people far worse than I was and still competing in the triathlon. There were kids with no arms and legs, just running around on their thumbs and that is where I decided that I could also get back to the sport I loved,” said she in an interview with the International Paralympic Committee. Next year she started competing at international para-triathlon competitions and in 2019 she became the world champion. Getting closer to Tokyo 2020, she posts on social media, “It’s been a hard journey but nothing will stop me reaching my goals at Tokyo 2021 Paralympics.”
Curtis McGrath, para-canoe
Soldier turned sporting star, Curtis was serving as an Australian Army combat engineer in Afghanistan in 2012 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device, tragically losing both legs in the blast. Only twenty minutes after the losing his legs, Curtis had set his sights on the future and again representing his country. Rumour has it he said, “You’ll see me in the Paralympics”… After four years, the paracanoeist won gold at Rio, where he was selected to carry the flag at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony.
Since Rio, Curtis has kept winning international competitions and is looking for gold in the kayak KL2 as well as the Va’a boats which have been added to the Tokyo 2020 program. In an interview with Paddle Australia, he said, “To stand on top of the podium will always be special, but to stand on top of the podium after everything that has happened in the last 12 months would be incredible.”
Ellie Cole, para-swimming
Australia’s Paralympic Swimming’s golden girl, four-time Paralympian Ellie Cole is a star swimmer with 18 Paralympics medals, including six gold. Ellie trains alongside her good friends, Australia’s superstar swimming sisters, Cate and Bronte Campbell.
Ellie began her Paralympics journey just eight weeks after her right leg was amputated as a result of cancer as a three-year-old. Her mother took her to swimming for rehabilitation and by 2006, Ellie was ready for her international debut. Ellie competes S9 100m freestyle, backstroke and more, winning an incredible number of titles. She was on the verge of retirement at London 2012 because of injuries. A reconstructive surgery on her both shoulders after the games helped pursue her passion. Rather than focusing on medals at Tokyo 2020, she says in an interview with 7 News, “I’m really just wanting to go there and leave Tokyo the fastest athlete that I can.”
Maintaining close ties with Japan, the gold medalist has had Japanese Paralympian Mei Ichinose at her house to train together and visited Rikkyo University in 2018 to meet Japanese swimmers and students.
Jaryd Clifford, para-athletics
Jaryd is a rising long-distance runner who holds two world records in the T12 class (vision Impairment). After breaking his own record of 1500m with three minutes and 41.34 seconds in March 2021, he accidentally added a new achievement to his list.
Jaryd had been pacing a marathon for his teammate Michael Roeger and hadn’t planned on running the whole race but at 36kms in he realised he had enough energy to cross the finish line. Jaryd not only finished the marathon without training for it, both he and Michael set new world records for their categories, with Jaryd finishing in 2 hours 19 minutes.
Jaryd began to lose his eyesight at the age of three, when he was diagnosed early-onset vitelliform macular dystrophy. He competes both as a para-athlete and in able-bodied competitions such as the 2018 World U20 Championships.
At Tokyo 2020, he is competing in the 1500m, 5000m and marathon. Announcing his disciplines on social media, he posts, “I want to assure everyone that my focus has never wavered from the track. As crazy as it sounds, I will be racing the Marathon with the hope that I can replicate the spirit of my accidental 2:19:08 Marathon from earlier in the year.”
About Lauren Parker
About Curtis McGrath
About Ellie Cole
About Jaryd Clifford