Showtime is approaching for hundreds of Australia’s top Para-athletes.
The highly anticipated Paris Paralympic Games is around the corner and throughout the first half of 2024 athletes and teams from more than 15 sports will aim to join the small number of those who have already secured a coveted place on the Australian Paralympic Team.
Among those working towards a potential Games debut is Wiradjuri woman Indiana Cooper, a teenage athletics star-turned track cyclist from country NSW whose experience exemplifies the importance of Paralympics Australia’s End Of Year Appeal.
The End Of Year Appeal is an opportunity for all Australians to help Paralympics Australia achieve its quest to facilitate better access to sport for people with a disability and establish and maintain pathways for those who have the talent and passion to progress.
The appeal also aims to address PA’s most immediate priority – securing the required financial support to deliver the much-loved Australian Paralympic Team to the Paris Paralympic Games.
“I’d love to go to Paris. It would be such an honour to represent my country again,” said Cooper, who competed at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. “But if I don’t make it, I know there’s always the 2028 Games I can keep working towards.”
Whether or not she becomes an Australian Paralympian in 2024, Cooper is testament to sport’s power to change lives.
Born severely premature, doctors told her mother Hope that her baby had a 40 percent chance of survival. The struggle for life had lasting impacts on Cooper, including a vision impairment and cerebral palsy which affects all four limbs. Growing up with a disability in Gundagai was tough and Hope says her daughter “didn’t have a great childhood”. But things turned for the better when a teacher suggested Cooper get classified so she could compete in Para-sport.
Cooper supports the End Of Year Appeal because she and her mum are certain that without the support of Paralympics Australia there would be no chance of her representing Australia on the global Paralympic stage.
“They have been so helpful and supportive,” Cooper said. “They gave me the chance to try Para-athletics for the first time and helped me get classified. They also set me up with my mentor, Sarah Stewart, who’s played a huge role in shaping my career.”
Hope said: “Paralympics Australia is the reason why she is where she is. They’ve given her the pathways and the assistance she needed to succeed.”
Paralympics Australia Chief Executive Catherine Clark would love to see Cooper representing Australia in Paris next year.
“But what I really love about Indi’s story is just the positive impact sport has had on her life,” Clark said.
“To hear Hope talk about the confidence and maturity Indi’s gained from participating and competing – the fact she’s no longer ashamed of her disability – it just shows the incredible power of sport to change lives.”
Clark said she asked Hope why she thought it was important to support Paralympics Australia’s End Of Year Appeal and get behind the sporting dreams of young people like Indi.
“She said that sport might be the only avenue some of those kids have to succeed. It’s a way to express themselves and be who they want to be. She said we needed to understand how strong and resilient these kids are and back them to develop their talents and follow their dreams. I couldn’t agree more.”
By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 27 November 2023