Australian athletes insist there is no sign of nerves among their Rio 2016 squad – despite more than half of the country’s 177 team members competing in their first Paralympic Games.
With only two days to go until the Opening Ceremony, Australia’s athletes have settled into the Paralympic Village and started their final preparations.
“While we have a high proportion of first timers, there’s also a bevvy of experience,” said Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin.
“We have athletes at their fifth, sixth, and even 12th Paralympic Games. It’s the perfect balance; you can see the camaraderie with the old and the new.
“For the more experienced athletes, it can be easy to forget what an achievement it is to be here. But when the rookies come in so wide-eyed, that feeling of excitement immediately comes back.”
For Kate Doughty, who will compete in the triathlon, her arrival in Rio fulfills a 16-year quest to reach the Paralympics. Doughty, who has a right arm limb deficiency, was inspired to compete while watching the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.
“It’s an awesome feeling to be in Rio,” she said. “It’s pretty exciting to not only be a first timer, but also be in the first Paralympic triathlon.
“I’m not at all nervous, and that has a lot to do with my preparation. I’m sure it will be a different story when I get to Copacabana on race day, but I know what I have to do, and it’s just about executing what I know.”
Fellow first-timer Tom O’Neill-Thorne, who is part of Australia’s wheelchair basketball squad, is thrilled to be representing his country on the biggest stage.
“I’m so happy with the relaxed vibe of the Australian team,” he said.
“Competing at the Paralympic Games is the biggest thing I’ll do in my wheelchair basketball career. The Paralympic Games has more athletes, more media coverage and more exposure, and I feel like I’m going to go out there for the entire country, rather than just for my sport.”