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As a young boy Bailey van den Hooven played a range of sports. Some of his favourites were rugby, soccer, surfing and bike riding.

After attending Paralympics Australia’s Multi-Sport Day in Wollongong on Saturday, the 17-year-old from Nowra has some new sports to consider taking up.

“We’re loving the day, we’re so glad we came. It’s showing him some opportunities and what he can do going forward,” Bailey’s mother Julie said at the event, which showcased 12 Paralympic sports and was attended by five Paralympians – Tokyo 2020 Para-cycling gold medallist Amanda Reid, bronze medallist boccia player Dan Michel, wheelchair rugby player Richard Voris, wheelchair basketballer Tristan Knowles and Para-triathlete Jonathan Goerlach.


Bailey tried out Para-table tennis, boccia and wheelchair rugby, sports he didn’t know were open to him since he acquired a brain injury two years ago.

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“He was hit by a car. He was on his push bike crossing the road and a guy on his mobile phone went through the red light,” Julie said.

“Bailey’s team – his physio, OT and case worker – have all been encouraging him to get back into sport, to see what’s out there, what’s possible for him. That’s what today is all about for us.”

Michel said he enjoyed taking Bailey through the basics of boccia and hoped it rekindled his desire to participate in sport.

“Bailey always loved playing sport before he was using a wheelchair,” Michel said. “But he’s struggled a bit to engage in sport the same way he used to.

“He’s loved playing boccia today and it’s been great to see him throwing the balls and getting close to the jack. It’s awesome to see the smile on his face, whether he’s having a hit of table tennis or boccia, it’s really great to see.

“I was nervous about going to a Multi-Sport day when I was younger. I thought I wouldn’t be able to play boccia, but thank God I did turn up and have a go. My advice would be to get out there and have a crack and you never know unless you have a go.”

Knowles, for whom Tokyo was his fifth Paralympic Games, came across wheelchair basketball when he was 15 after having his leg amputated at age nine.

“During that six year period I felt quite lost but wheelchair basketball sent my life in a direction that I’m really thankful for,” he said.

“When I look around the room here it takes me back to that time, seeing lots of young people trying out sports. Hopefully it sends some lives in a direction they never thought possible too.”

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That might be the case for six-year-old Sam, whose mother Arlynn Ruiz heard about the Wollongong Multi-Sport Day through the Paralympics Australia Facebook page.

“Sam was born with an under-developed left limb that resulted in an amputation when he was three years old,” Arlynn said.

“At the beginning I believed we could try anything he wanted to do. But as he was growing up, in team sports, the kids became competitive and it was becoming difficult for him to keep up.

“He wants to keep playing team sports and have that sense of reward, so we want to find an opportunity for him to still have the enjoyment. That’s why we came here, to see what other sports he could try.”

Tamsin Colley came to try new sports even though she has already represented Australia at Paralympic level.

Colley had just turned 14 and was the youngest member of the Australian Paralympic Team at Rio 2016, where she competed in the 200 metres T36.

“I think it’s great there’s so many new Para-sports out there,” Colley said. “I’ve tried table tennis, Para-powerlifting, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball. Competing at the very highest level makes me want to try again for Paris.

“It was a bit of a funny journey being at the Paralympics at such a young age. People didn’t think of me as a Paralympian and I didn’t really think of myself as a Paralympian. But it’s given me a lot of power to encourage other people to get involved, which I really enjoy.”


By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 2 September 2022