The Tokyo Paralympics are a big step closer to reality for 10 Para-athletes who have been named the first members of the Australian Team named for the Games next year.

The new group features a wheelchair racer making her return to the top level after 16 years, a young star who used to train with Paralympic legend Kurt Fearnley, and a former German Paralympic gold medallist who won her first major title in Australian colours at the World Para-Athletics Championships last year. Also among the selections are three competitors set to make their first appearance at the Paralympics.

“We’re thrilled to announce some of the athletes who’ve worked so hard for this selection over four years or more,” Paralympics Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Lynne Anderson said.

“On top of our year-to-go announcement and the launch of our uniform for Tokyo recently, it’s yet another boost to say ‘Keep going! The finish line is in sight!’

“It’s a stellar group we’ve named and they set a really high standard for the rest of the Australian Team announcements we’ll be making in due course. The message is clear: we’re in full swing for Tokyo and we’ll be aiming to win.”

The 10 Para-athletes include Team mainstays Madison de Rozario and Michael Roeger, who have each competed in three Paralympic Games. Vanessa Low has been named after winning the long jump T61-63 at the World Championships in Dubai last year. Low won a gold medal and a silver medal for Germany at the 2016 Rio Games before moving to Australia.

Eliza Ault-Connell competed in five events at the Athens Paralympics in 2004, stepped away from sport to start a family and qualified for Tokyo with a bronze medal in the 800 metres T54 at last year’s World Championships.

Fearnley’s former training partner Rheed McCracken, dual World Championship gold medallist Jaryd Clifford and Rio silver medallist Deon Kenzie are each aged under 25, while sprinter Rhiannon Clarke, discus thrower Sarah Edmiston and Corey Anderson, who won a World Championship gold medal last year in the javelin F38, will compete at their first Paralympics.

“Australian Para-athletics has always made us very proud,” Australian Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin said.

“They’ve always been one of the bigger teams and always been quite successful. But I think what we’re seeing now is a maturity coming through in this next batch. The baton has well and truly been passed and the next generation is building momentum. It’s a really exciting new phase.

“Being able to announce this mix of experienced Paralympians, with so many medals between them, along with some exciting newcomers is a really important moment for us.

“These athletes have certainly earned their spots. They’ve achieved an automatic qualification through their results at the 2019 World Para-Athletics Championships.

“It’s hugely significant to finally be able to announce the first group of athletes on the 2020 Team. The last six months have been challenging for everybody. We now have 12 months to go and have a fantastic piece of good news to focus on.”

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By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 7 September 2020