The 2016 Australian Paralympic Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin announced on Thursday (4 February) five-time Paralympian Daniela Di Toro and four-time Paralympian Kurt Fearnley as the captains of the Australian Paralympic Team for Rio 2016.
With a wealth of Paralympic experience behind them, wheelchair tennis and table tennis player Di Toro and wheelchair racer Fearnley will lead the team and work with McLoughlin in the eight months leading up to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games to create a clear vision and to give voice to each individual athlete, regardless of their sport, geographical location or disability.
The Australian Paralympic Team has not had Team Captains since the Athens 2004 Games. McLoughlin said the re-introduction of athlete leaders was to help strengthen a team unit which will consist of more than 170 athletes from every Australian state and territory from up to 15 sports.
“Australia has a proud history of success at the Paralympic Games and has competed at every Games since the first in Rome in 1960, but leading into what will be the most competitive Games in history, it is important that we create a culture that supports success with a strong team spirit,” said McLoughlin.
“It is without question that Kurt and Daniela’s extensive experience and natural leadership skills will not only help in developing a vision for the team, but in creating a legacy for future Paralympic Teams.
“Together, they will be the bridge between the individual greatness of our athletes and their connection to the wider Australian team. And as leaders, I have immense confidence in both Danni and Kurt to build a strong sense of identity among the Team as we all strive for a common goal.
“I am delighted to appoint Daniela and Kurt to his prestigious role, and I know they will provide so much value to their team mates by drawing upon their own experiences, sharing the highs and lows of their journeys, and building the values and foundations of our team well before the Games so that when the Team arrives in Rio, athletes can focus on what they need to do to succeed, knowing there is a support network behind them,” she said.
Di Toro, who retired from wheelchair tennis following London 2012 is making her comeback to the Paralympic Games in table tennis. Having ended her wheelchair tennis career with a silver and bronze Paralympic medal, 12 Australian Open titles, four US Open titles, four French Open titles, the former two-time world number one has displayed her leadership skills within the wheelchair tennis community by coaching and mentoring young tennis players. In 1999 she was named Australian Paralympian of the Year and in 2000, received an Australian Sports Medal.
“I am profoundly honoured and proud to be named as co-captain of the 2016 Australian Paralympic Team along with my good friend and Paralympic buddy, Kurt Fearnley. As a co-captain I am excited about the opportunity to bring all our athletes together to create a sense of community amongst our Paralympic family in the lead-up to what will be the most televised Paralympic Games in history.
“It really is an exciting time for all of our Paralympic athletes who have worked tirelessly over the last four years to showcase their skill and determination, and I hope the Australian public gets behind this talented group of individuals as they reach for individual and collective greatness.”
Fearnley, too, has an extensive list of accolades to his name including three gold, six silver and two bronze Paralympic medals, four World Championship titles and a gold and silver Commonwealth Games medals, as well as multiple titles from the New York, London, Chicago and Sydney marathons. Fearnley is also widely known for crawling the Kokoda Track in 2009.
“It’s incredibly exciting to be named captain along with one of my favourite people in the world, Daniela Di Toro. To be part of creating an open, understanding and caring environment in what can be one of the most highly stressful times of any athlete’s lives is a huge honour and I’m very proud to have been selected,” said Fearnley.
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will commence on 7 September.
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.