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When Col Pearse was nine years old, a chance meeting with swimming superstar Ellie Cole after the London 2012 Paralympic Games ignited his own Paralympic dream.

“I remember Ellie Cole coming down to a local pool near where I lived and she was showing off her gold medals and, for me, seeing those medals was like walking into a candy shop,” Pearse said. “I was so inspired by seeing someone with a disability doing amazing things in the world.”

On Sunday, Pearse was able to put his own Tokyo 2020 Paralympic medal on display at the latest Multi-Sport Come and Try Day, at the Melbourne Sports Centre. The event, run by Paralympics Australia in partnership with Sport Australia and Harvey Norman, was the biggest Come and Try Day in the program’s history, with 17 different Para-sports on offer for people with an impairment to sample.

Pearse spent the day meeting attendees and encouraging participants to try their hand at the range of sporting activities available.

“It’s a really good opportunity for us Paralympians to show those with disabilities that they have a wide variety of sports to play and that the world is open to them,” Pearse said. “The sports that are on offer can take them to amazing places across the world.”

Three other Paralympians attended, including three-time Paralympic goalball representative Jenny Blow and four-time Paralympic skiers Melissa Perrine and Mitch Gourley.

“Come and Try Days are massively important – it’s about getting people involved in sport to improve their lives and ultimately build Para-sport for everybody,” Gourley said.

Ping Fang, who was born with achondroplasia, attended the day to try boccia for the first time.

“It was surprising to find out that there were options out there for me. It was good to know that there was something out there for everybody,” Fang said. “Until we have access to these events, you don’t know what you can do and what’s possible.”

Scott Nicholas, Paralympics Australia’s Participation and Pathway Coordinator (VIC/TAS), said it was fantastic to see such a large turnout on the day.

“The event was a huge success with almost 50 participants with eligible impairments attending on the day and connecting with the various sports,” Nicolas said. “We also had a number of allied health professionals attend who can play an important role in connecting participants and their families to Para-sport. With 17 sports involved, we’re really excited to see the transition into summer and winter Para-sport programs.

“Come and Try Day events play an important role in showcasing the Paralympic movement and all of the Para-sports that are a part of it. Whether someone has a congenital impairment (from birth) or acquired later in life, these days can be important in providing people of all ages a connection to Para-sport pathways, or grassroots participation programs.

“The day provides people with the opportunity to speak directly with coaches, athletes and clubs, providing a direct link to participation opportunities. They also offer a unique chance for people to meet Paralympians and learn about their experiences.

“There were lots of great stories of people trying new Para-sports, sitting in a sports chair for the first time and learning about sports they didn’t know were a possibility for them.”

The national Come and Try Day program continues this weekend with events in NSW and SA on Saturday April 2.

QLD Multi-Sport Come and Try Day – register now
Saturday May 7 
1:30 – 4pm
Nissan Arena, Brisbane

By: Lucy Hunt, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 30 March 2022