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It’s a tall order to emulate Ryley Batt, the Australian Steelers wheelchair rugby champion, dual Paralympic Games gold medallist and Tokyo 2020 Australian Paralympic Team co-captain. But, at a recent Paralympics Australia Come and Try Day event in Adelaide, there were signs from another talented Riley that the future of Australian wheelchair rugby looks bright.

“This Riley was only nine years old but he absolutely lit up the wheelchair rugby court,” Paralympics Australia’s Participation and Pathways Coordinator (SA) Jon Henschke said.

“He’s a quad amputee due to meningococcal B at age two. His arm amputations are about half way up his forearm and he’s an above knee amputee on both legs. For such a young kid, his chair skills were phenomenal and he had a really good time.

“There’s a long way to go of course but he’s a bit of a whizz and is interested in getting right into wheelchair rugby. People there were making comparisons to Ryley Batt, saying this kid is the future.”

The SA Come and Try Day was the latest in Paralympics Australia’s ongoing program to provide opportunities for people with an impairment to sample Para-sports and potentially become involved locally. Four Tokyo 2020 Paralympians were at the event on November 7, including Para-swimmer Isabella Vincent, Para-table tennis player Sam von Einem, wheelchair basketball player Sam White and Para-rower Simon Albury. Around 80 people attended, of which 22 participated and learnt about a range of sports: sitting volleyball, Para-badminton, Para-cycling, Para-fencing, Para-table tennis, boccia, wheelchair basketball, Para-athletic, wheelchair rugby, goalball and Para-swimming.

“We had more attendees and participants than we did at the multi-sport event we held here in April,” Henschke said

“Most people came in April just to have a look around, whereas this time most were keen to really have a go at the different sports and many have said they want to continue playing, which is really pleasing.”

Among them was early teenager Harriett, whose mother said being at the Come and Try Day was a positive experience for her daughter as it allowed her to see other people with disabilities.

Harriett has short stature and is getting to the age where it’s becoming a bit more noticeable at school and causing her to have a bit of a hard time. Harriett enjoyed having a go and said afterwards she was keen to continue with Para-badminton.

“Overall, we had people of various ages but quite a number of 10 to 15-year-olds,” Henschke said. “So, for many people, it was their first exposure to Para-sports and that’s what this program is all about.”

This event was brought to you by Paralympics Australia in partnership with Sport Australia and NDSP.

By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 17 November 2021