An official event was held at Sydney Town Hall to farewell the Australian Paralympic athletes who will be taking part in London from 29 August to 9 September, 2012.
Australia – a country that loves sport was probably expecting to have done better in the Olympics. However, all is not lost. In just over a couple of week’s time it will be sending a new squad of athletes to London and this time the Aussies are likely to represent more of a threat to the host nation.
Digital Journal attended the official farewell and got a chance to speak to a couple of the Paralympic athletes who will be taking part in London 2012.
Interview - Michelle Rzepecki
Digital Journal spoke to Michelle Rzepecki who is competing in the Goalball.
When do you leave for London?
“On Friday - this Friday. So, we fly to Wales first, for a staging camp and then from there we go to London.”
Some of the Australian team is already in Wales aren’t they?
“Yes, that’s right. Some of them have already left. We’re all quite staggered so we’re one of the last teams to leave.”
Will you be staying in Wales the whole time?
“No, just two weeks and just before the start – I think on the 28th we get the bus down to London, before the opening and that’s when they start.”
How do you expect to do in London?
“We are currently ranked eighth so we hope to at least do better and hopefully sneak up on these teams and maybe get a medal. Just do our best really. That’s all we can do.”
How do you think Australia will perform overall? Do you think you will be able to beat the position of the Australian able-bodied athletes?
“Look, we hope so. Look, they came tenth and we hope for top five; so, it’s looking pretty good – let’s see how we do.”
Interview – Sarah Stewart
Sarah Stewart is a Wheelchair Basketball player (forward/centre).
When are you leaving for London?
“We leave tomorrow. We leave on the four o’clock flight and we’re going to Amsterdam first for a tournament against four or five of the other teams, which will be really good; and help us to get over the jet lag a bit. And then we’re going to Cardiff for the Australian team staging camp. Then we’re going to London.”
Will you be staying in the same quarters as the Olympic athletes?
“Yes, the Paralympic village is the same. So, yeah, that’s fantastic. It’s exciting.”
How do you think you’re going to do?
“So, we got Silver in Athens and Bronze in Beijing. So, yeah we’re in the top teams for sure. I think it’s going to be an interesting Paralympics because there’s definitely that sort of top six/eight that’s really close and so anyone on their day could beat anyone else.
“We’ve had some good form going in though. The world number one is the US and we beat them twice in Europe when we just played them - and that was really good wins. And Germany who are ranked the world number two, but probably a bit more favourite at the moment than the US. We’ve had some really close games with them in Europe and they just came over and played here and we actually beat them twice in the tournament here and won the tournament here.
“So that was brilliant for us. So I think, you know, we’re a really strong team and I think if we can, on the day, get our stuff going, we could do quite well.”
What’s your opinion on how Australia is going to do overall in the Paralympics?
“Look, I think quite well. They are always a very strong team. And from the lead up, the results we’ve seen people have been doing quite well. It’s always hard to tell. I mean like you’ve seen from the Olympics that big stage thing and people come out of nowhere to take some great stuff and other people are training really well.
“But there’s some really great results posted by some of the guys in all the different sports, so I think it’ll be really exciting. And there’s always some really good competitions out there. So, we’ve got some great swimmers. The guy’s basketball and our basketball teams are strong. The rugby guys are really good. So, hopefully some good stuff happening.”
Justin Holdforth, Head of Sports & Events – ABC TV (left) & Jason Hellwig, Chef de Mission, Australian Paralympic Team (right).
Paralympic athletes with Clover Moore. Left to right: Grant Mizens, Wheelchair Basketball player - Beijing gold medal winner. Michelle Rzepecki, Goalball player. Kylie Gauci, Wheelchair Basketball player - won the bronze and silver medals at the last two Paralympics. Tina McKenzie, Wheelchair basketball player. Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP.
Left to right: Grant Mizens, Wheelchair Basketball player - Beijing gold medal winner. Michelle Rzepecki, Goalball player. Kylie Gauci, Wheelchair Basketball player - won the bronze and silver medals at the last two Paralympics.