While receiving her medals at the Rio and Tokyo Games, Australian Paralympic Team canoeist Susan Seipel could look back to a come-and-try event as the moment that transformed her world.
Seipel had been a good swimmer as a child and later did well in equestrian. However, she was encouraged to get into paddling after she gave it a go, showed promise and, most importantly, enjoyed it.
“My whole canoeing journey started from going to an event where I could give canoeing a try,” said Seipel, who is aiming to compete at Paris 2024, which would be her third Games.
“I hadn’t had anything to do with it before that but I just thought it would be a good opportunity. I’d been to a few similar events before and tried various sports. You just never know which one’s going to get you hooked and you’ll really enjoy until you actually have a go at it.”
Alongside sending elite teams to Summer and Winter Paralympic Games, Paralympics Australia is committed to giving people of all ages and abilities the chance to try Para-sports and perhaps find one – or two or three – they want to pursue. To achieve this, PA runs an extensive program of Multi-Sport Days, where participants can sample various sports under the guidance and encouragement of Paralympic athletes, coaches and other experts.
The first of PA’s 2023 program of Multi-Sport Days is on Saturday 11 February on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Paralympians Ella Sabljak, Janine Watson, Lakeisha Patterson, Will Martin and Bridie Kean will meet participants and talk to them about the many benefits of being involved in sport, particularly for those with a disability.
It’s a fact Seipel and her Paralympic teammates well know.
“An active life and being involved in sport is really beneficial to everybody, whether you have a disability or not,” she said.
“It’s obviously a healthy thing to pursue being active. But you also get to meet people and have a lot of fun. I joined my local club and that’s where I learned everything about canoeing and made some good friendships.
“When I tried canoeing at the come-and-try day, they said I had really good balance and that I felt the boat pretty well, which is one of the trickiest things to start off with. Just staying upright in the boat is quite a challenge.
“They gave me information about how to get involved and told me canoeing would be included in the Paralympic Games in 2016 for the first time, so they were looking for new athletes. I got into it and found there was so much support and I felt I really could make it to the Games.
“It’s not just about competing at the highest level but you just never know where the decisions you make on any given day can lead you.”
PA’s Multi-Sport Day showcase travels to five states and the ACT, including regional centres, between February 11 and May 7. Each will offer the chance to sample several sports. At the event on the Sunshine Coast, participants can try Para-archery, Para-badminton, Boccia, Para-canoe, Para-cycling, Para-taekwondo, Para-swimming, Para-table tennis, Wheelchair tennis, Wheelchair basketball and Wheelchair rugby.
They can meet representatives from National and State Sporting Organisations and clubs and get information about local programs, Para-pathways and classification. They can also learn about what it means to be involved in Para-sport from current athletes and Paralympians.
By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 10 February 2023