The Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) has announced the 13 athletes who will hunt for Australia’s first Winter Paralympic gold medal since Salt Lake City 2002 at PyeongChang 2018, beginning on 9 March.
Co-captained by alpine skiing world champion and two-time Paralympian Mitchell Gourley and double snowboard crystal globe holder Joany Badenhorst, the Australian Team will comprise of four snowboarders, seven alpine skiers and two sighted guides.
Vision impaired skier Shaun Pianta, with sighted guide Jeremy O’Sullivan, has also qualified for selection for his first Paralympics and will be a late inclusion if medical staff confirm he has overcome a recent knee injury.
Gourley, the reigning men’s super-combined standing world champion, will headline the alpine squad alongside two-time Paralympian and three-time world champion Melissa Perrine, who is chasing her first Paralympic medal with her sighted guide Christian Geiger.
Another big name is that of Australia’s first female Paralympic sit-skier Tori Pendergast, who has finished her most successful World Cup season yet after ending overall seventh.
The experienced trio will be joined by first-timers Jonty O’Callaghan, Mark Soyer, Sam Tait, Patrick Jensen and his sighted guide Lara Falk.
The snowboard squad includes 18-year-old Ben Tudhope, who will compete at his second Games, Simon Patmore, who will make his Paralympic debut after winning bronze as a sprinter at London 2012, and debutant Sean Pollard. They will join Sochi 2014 Paralympian Bandenhorst.
“The Australian Paralympic Committee is extremely proud of this team and excited to see what they can achieve together. I’d like to congratulate each athlete on their selection,” said APC Chief Executive Lynne Anderson.
“It is a relatively young team compared to Winter Teams at the past few Games which means it is a golden opportunity to really make a name for themselves with some breakthrough performances. Of course, there is an experienced core of athletes who will lead from the front but there are also a lot of fresh faces ready and eager for their Paralympic debut.
“One thing I know they all have in common is that they are proud Paralympians seeking to reach new heights at the most important event of their careers.”
Australia’s PyeongChang 2018 Chef de Mission Nick Dean said he has no doubt that this group of athletes will only enhance Australia’s proud history at the Paralympic Winter Games.
“While PyeongChang is set to be the most competitive Paralympic Winter Games yet, we have had some incredible results from both our Para alpine skiers and Para snowboarders over the previous four seasons,” he said.
“And while it has never been harder to win a Paralympic medal, I am proud to say our athletes are primed and ready to push their limits and hopefully add to the total of 30 Paralympic medals we have won since our first back in 1992.”
Australian Paralympic Winter Team for PyeongChang 2018
Para alpine skiing: Mitchell Gourley, Patrick Jensen (and guide Lara Falk), Jonty O'Callaghan, Victoria Pendergast, Melissa Perrine (and guide Christian Geiger), Mark Soyer, Sam Tait
Para snowboard: Joany Badenhorst, Simon Patmore, Sean Pollard, Ben Tudhope
Shaun Pianta (knee injury) and sighted guide Jeremy O’Sullivan have qualified and will be officially selected, pending medical approval, at a later date.