Para-triathlete Jonathan Goerlach felt immense pride as the first Paralympic tile was unveiled on the Illawarra Tribute Wall at a ceremony on Wednesday.
The wall, located at Lang Park opposite Wollongong City beach, was built in 2000 as part of a Sydney Olympic Games initiative and Paralympians were added this year for the first time.
After returning from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Goerlach began campaigning to have Paralympians added to what has now been renamed the Illawarra Olympic and Paralympic Wall.
“I think we needed to see that there should be equal recognition in the region and I knew that there were a lot of current and former Paralympians from the region that should be recognised,” Goerlach said.
“It’s just all about equality and having the same rights, opportunities, recognition as everybody. In terms of being an athlete, we train as hard, we race as hard and we often train with the same able-bodied athletes and the same coaches.”
Goerlach is now working with the Illawarra Olympic and Paralympic fundraising committee to have all past Paralympians from the area added to the wall dating back from the first Paralympic Games in 1960.
“It’s one small little contribution and hopefully it can be something that happens in more regions or cities around Australia,” he said.
“I’m just fortunate that I’m living in a region that took that initiative in 2000 and are now taking it a step forward by recognising Paralympians.”
Goerlach was recognised with fellow Tokyo 2020 representatives Victoria Davies, Jasmine Greenwood, Amanda Reid, Brett Stibners and sighted guide Dave Mainwaring, as well as Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympians Melissa Perrine and Sam Tait.
“I think it really symbolises that the Paralympians and Olympians are truly on the same level in the eyes of my local council area,” Perrine said. “I’m honoured to be on that wall along with every other Paralympian and Olympian.
“Having our names right alongside Olympians on this wall in a massive council area that people walk past every single day just means so much.
“To me, it means that hopefully young disabled kids, disabled adults, people who know people with disabilities and people who have skewed perceptions will see this and truly understand that society is becoming more inclusive. It’s such a wonderful thing.”
Illawarra Olympic & Paralympic Tribute Wall
Tokyo 2020 Paralympians:
Victoria Davies (Para-equestrian)
Jonathan Goerlach (Para-triathlon)
Jasmine Greenwood (Para-swimming)
Tristan Knowles (wheelchair basketball)
David Mainwaring (guide – Para-triathlon)
Amanda Reid (Para-cycling)
Brett Stibners (wheelchair basketball)
By: Lucy Hunt, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 19 May 2022
Imagery: Wollongong City Council