The recently completed 2012 Paralympics not only provided a great spectacle for sport but resulted in a huge leap forward in the public understanding and a new awareness that people with disabilities can be elite athletes. Furthermore, how the Australian athletes conducted themselves in interviews and how they dealt with their own expectations was also a great credit to them and maybe something our able bodied Olympians could learn from.
Ryley Batt is a perfect example of this as he is only 23 years old yet this is his third Paralympics in Wheelchair Rugby. As stated on his profile on the Australian Paralympic Committee website he is considered the “greatest wheelchair rugby player on the planet”. As a pivotal member of the team he was also the highest goal scorer for the Wheelchair Rugby at the Paralympics.He only started to use a wheelchair when he was 12 years old and shortly afterwards took up wheelchair rugby. It was his dedication to succeed combined with his competitive spirit that resulted in him being selected for the Australian Paralympic Team as well as being the youngest ever wheelchair rugby player at 15 years old.
This picture taken from the website of the Paralympic Movement highlights the nature of wheelchair rugby and the extent of the contact that can occur.
While it was the athletes with the obvious disabilities who received most attention, there were athletes of all nationalities such as Mitchell Killduff and Michael Murray who have forms of autism, a disability which is not so obvious. They should not be overlooked because their achievements are phenomenal.
The Australian Paralympic Committee also runs many programs to support people with disabilities to participate in sports and specifically runs a Paralympic Talent Search program. Follow the link for more details as well as upcoming dates.