30 November 2022
From tomorrow 12 Para athletes including Paralympians Monique Murphy (swimming) and Taishar Ovens (wheelchair basketball) will give thousands of students across the country a glimpse into life as an elite athlete ahead of International Day of People with Disability (IDOPwD) on December 3.
Forming part of a national campaign led by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), the Para athletes will visit young Australians from Perth to the Sunshine Coast over the next two days to showcase the opportunities sport presents for people with a disability.
For Paralympic swimmer Col Pearse, who grew up on a dairy farm in country Victoria, sport has given him a gateway to travel the world. Now he’s on a mission to inspire the next generation this IDOPwD.
“Growing up in remote areas like that there’s not many opportunities for athletes with disabilities to thrive in sports like swimming so it’s given me the opportunity to represent the green and gold,” Pearse said.
“There’s more than 4.5 million Australians who have a disability so it’s a great day for everyone to come together and really celebrate our disabilities, as it’s what makes us unique.”
Para equestrian dressage rider Zoë Vorenas is also looking to give back to a sport which provided a light through her darkest times.
“I was 17 when I got sick…my life just flipped and I really needed something to get me going again and give me purpose and para sport offered that.
“There’s always an opportunity to get involved in sport and people just need to give it a go … don’t be scared to be a beginner at something,” Vorenas said.
AIS Acting Director Matti Clements it was wonderful to see Para athletes embrace the opportunity to inspire students through sport.
“Despite a huge year of competition for our Para athletes, including the 2022 Winter Paralympics and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, it was terrific to see dozens of athletes reach out to help us promote International Day of People with Disability,” Clements said.
“We know how powerful exposure to elite athletes is, especially with the 2032 Brisbane Games on the horizon. The students meeting their Paralympic heroes today could be the athletes we’re cheering on in 10 years’ time,” she added.
It's a sentiment Wheelchair Rugby Paralympian Andrew Edmondson agrees with.
"Para athletes are now being renowned within society which is great. They’re getting recognition and gone are the days where people feel sorry for people in wheelchairs."
“There’s a bunch of different sports for all people with all different types of disabilities and the things that you get out of Para sport are much more than just the actual sport,” he said.
Thursday December 1
09:00 – 09:50 AEDT - South Melbourne Park Primary School, Melbourne – 4x Winter Paralympian Mitch Gourley and Paralympic wheelchair basketballer Isabel Martin
11:00 – 12:00 AWST - Hollywood Primary School, Nedlands, Perth – Para archer Craig McMurdo and Paralympian wheelchair basketballer Taishar Ovens
11:40 – 12:30 AEST - Worongary State School, Gold Coast – Paralympic swimmer Monique Murphy and Wheelchair Rugby player Cam Whittaker
12:00 – 13:00 AEDT - Holy Trinity Catholic Primary School, Sunbury, Victoria – Paralympic table tennis player Trevor Hirth and Para table tennis athlete Chris Addis (vision available)
Friday December 2
9:15 – 10:15 AEST - Palmview State Special School, Sunshine Coast – Wheelchair Rugby player Damien Mortaud
9:30 – 10:30 AEDT - Rowville Secondary College, Rowville, Victoria – World Para triathletes Jack Howell and Liam Twomey (vision available)
11:00 – 12:00 AEDT - Cranleigh School, Holt, ACT – Pararoo Luc Launder and Para Matildas team manager Jay Phouisangiem