Thursday, 2 September 2021
Statements on Indulgence
Tokyo Paralympic Games
It's safe to say that, during what's a very challenging time for Australians, a common sentiment across our nation is: thank goodness for the Tokyo Paralympics! This is the largest Australian team ever sent to a Paralympic Games overseas—179 athletes supported by 168 staff and competing in 18 of the 22 sports. At present, with three days to go, Australia is eighth on the medal tally, with 13 gold, 23 silver and 24 bronze—and more medals to come, we hope, over the next few days.
Some of the performances so far have been nothing short of stunning. Australia's first gold medal of the games was won by South Australian Paige Greco in the 3,000 metres women's individual pursuit. She broke the world record by seven seconds in her heat, and then—because apparently that wasn't enough!—she knocked another two seconds off that time during the next race. Her teammate Emily Petricola then saw to it that Australia had back-to-back gold medals. Swimming champion Will Martin, who has already won gold in the 400-metre freestyle and the 4 x 100 metre freestyle just went and broke the world record in his 100-metre heat—a record that, incidentally, was set by him.
Once again, the great stories are not just laid out in gold. As COVID was hitting Sydney, swimmer Tiffany Thomas Kane had just an hour to pack and leave. Her grandmother died after she left Australia, and Tiffany dedicated one of her bronze medals to her. We've seen our 37-year gold medal drought in Paralympics table tennis brought to an end by Lina Lei and Qian Yang, who won their respective women's singles finals in Tokyo. For Yang it was her first time representing Australia. That's certainly one way to debut for your country!
It's been a time for drought-breaking. Dan Michel won Australia's first medal in boccia in a quarter of a century. I can inform the Prime Minister that boccia is a version of bocce, the Italian game, for people to compete with mobility impairment. It's a game of great skill that I watched the other night. It's quite an extraordinary game of skill. Dan said, 'I am heaps excited with it.' As are we, Dan!
I say to every one of our Paralympians: you have done us all proud as a nation in Tokyo. You are performing magnificently as athletes, as human beings and as representatives of your country. You embody everything that is great about the Paralympics. I want to take the opportunity as well to thank our friends in Japan for hosting the games.
I know we'll all be cheering on Dylan Alcott tonight when he plays his quad singles final. He's in with a good chance of completing something that can only happen by definition every four years—a golden slam, winning all four majors and the Olympic singles gold in a single year. Let our hopes for him remind us just how much the games are about dreams.
In a trackside interview, wheelchair racer Sam Carter recalled watching the Paralympics as a 10-year-old boy. He said, 'Every time I show up at the village, it's like I get a mental high-five from 10-year-old Sam.' I will leave the final word to Sam, who has this advice for any 10-year-olds who are dreaming that same dream: 'Get out there. If you work hard, you can do it. It's totally within reach.'
Our Paralympians have the goodwill of every single Australian, including the goodwill of our entire parliament. Well done.