Ensuring the views of winter Para-athletes carry as much weight as their summer counterparts will be a key objective for Mitchell Gourley as the newly-elected member of Paralympics Australia’s Athlete Commission.
Gourley will join the Commission this week after he was elected by his winter sport peers, filling the vacancy left by Toby Kane who stood down for personal reasons.
Gourley was co-captain of the 2018 Australian Winter Paralympic Team and has enjoyed a glittering alpine skiing career spanning 15 years, highlighted by the past three Winter Paralympic Games, gold medal success at World Championship level and multiple World Cup victories.
Away from sport, the 29-year-old is a passionate advocate for athlete well-being. He is a member of the inaugural AIS Athlete Advisory Committee and has also served as Chairman of the World Para-Alpine Skiing Athlete Advisory Group and Athlete Representative to the International Paralympic Committee’s Sport Technical Committee for Alpine Skiing.
And while he admits it is daunting to replace his close friend and former team-mate on the Commission, Gourley said he is ready and excited to play an active role.
“It was nice to get the call [when elected]. Obviously I have a huge amount of respect for the people who are on the Commission and also for Toby, who has done a really good job representing the winter athletes since the Commission was established,” Gourley said.
“One of the main ways I want to work with the Commission is to help with how we can improve the pathway for developing athletes in winter sport here in Australia, as well as supporting their ongoing development as people, more than anything.
“In the winter team, we spend a lot of time overseas – more than most Paralympic athletes – which comes at a huge financial and personal commitment to make it to the top in winter sport, especially coming from Australia.
“I was really lucky to have amazing team-mates to help me do that and really help shape were I am now and where I want to get to and I guess I want to give back in that sense.
“The goal for me is to, first and foremost, represent all of the winter athletes and that includes not just alpine and snowboard but the other emerging winter sports where we want to be developing athletes and finding new avenues to broaden the Winter Team.”
PA established its Athletes’ Commission in 2017 to enable greater engagement with Para-athletes from all sports and to help inform PA on decisions relating on athlete-facing matters. Chaired by two-time Paralympian Annabelle Williams, it consists of 11 members from eight sports.
Paralympics Australia Chief Executive Lynne Anderson said the role of the Commission has evolved to become a core element of PA’s strategic direction.
“Our athletes are at the heart of everything we do at Paralympics Australia and our work with the Athlete’s Commission has taken our engagement with our athletes to a new whole new level,” Anderson said.
“We have been amazed by the calibre of the people who form this commission and the results they continue to achieve. They bring an outstanding and diverse range of skills and experiences and I’m sure Mitch will be wonderful addition.”
Williams said: “We are delighted to have Mitch join our Commission. This is an incredibly passionate group of people who are excited about representing and advocating for the rights of Para-athletes.
“I know Mitch will be an outstanding contributor. He has been a leader of the winter team and more generally within the Paralympic movement for a long time and we are excited to work with him and all the wonderful winter athletes as they prepare for Beijing 2022.”
Paralympics Australia Athlete Commission
- Annabelle Williams (swimming) – Chair
- Daniela Di Toro (table tennis) – Vice-Chair
- Angie Ballard (athletics)
- Blake Cochrane (swimming)
- Carol Cooke (cycling)
- Mitchell Gourley (alpine skiing)
- Curtis McGrath (canoe)
- Dan Michel (boccia)
- Sarah Rose (swimming)
- Sarah Stewart (wheelchair basketball)
- Prue Watt (swimming)