THE Australian Paralympic Team will wear black armbands in Friday night’s Opening Ceremony for the Sochi Winter Games to remember their fallen mate, Matthew Robinson.
Robinson, a snowboarder on the national squad, died last month after suffering serious neck and spinal injuries in a race crash in Spain. His funeral will be held in Perth today.
Chef de Mission Chris Nunn said the athletes, coaches and team officials in Sochi wanted to do something to pay tribute to Matt.
“One of the suggestions by Russian organisers was to have a minute’s silence before the snowboarding event is held here at the Games,’’ Nunn said. “But we declined that offer, because as well-intentioned as it was, we felt it wasn’t fair to the athletes to have to go through that and then have to race.’’
So instead, the Australian Team of nine athletes, two sighted guides, coaches, medical and administration staff will wear black armbands on their Opening Ceremony uniforms at Fisht Stadium in Sochi.
One event – snowboard cross – is making its Paralympic debut at the 2014 Games on the alpine program. Australia has three athletes competing in the lower limb disability class – Trent Milton (NSW), Ben Tudhope (NSW) and Joany Badenhorst (NSW).
Snowboard coach for the Australian Team, Peter Higgins, had worked closely with Robinson to set up the national Paralympic program.
Robinson’s disability class had not been included on the Sochi program but could be part of the 2018 snowboard events in South Korea. But he had worked and trained closely with Milton, Tudhope and Badenhorst.
“Matt was our first ever Para-snowboard athlete over three years ago and we started the program together. After that he became a role model and a mentor,’’ Higgins said.
“He inspired everybody to new heights in every way. He overcame significant physical disabilities and still managed to get himself to the world No.1 ranking for his class.
“He trained his butt off and rode his butt off. We are so very proud of him.’’
Higgins and the three snowboarders in Sochi sent messages to Robinson’s family to be read out at Matt’s funeral.
“He led by example and in doing that he lifted the entire team to be the best that they could be,’’ Higgins said.
“He very much embodies the spirit of Paralympic sport; the fight we all fight; and the success you can achieve after putting in all that hard work.’’
By APC Media