In the final edition of our Clean and Gold series of On Side, we relive the Paralympic Games highlights with the team’s chef de mission Kate McLoughlin and Channel 7 commentator David Culbert.
Madi de Rozario’s gold and the silver to Jaryd Clifford on the final day of competition brought the team total to 21 gold, 29 silver and 30 bronze.
McLoughlin tells hosts Tim Gavel and Petria Thomas that her main challenge was keeping athletes safe and “making sure they had that opportunity to perform”.
This involved constant changes and reworking of scenario plans to try to ensure they were a step ahead to give athletes every opportunity to perform at their best.
“They are elite athletes in every sense of the word,” she says. “They are just the same as their Olympic counterparts and they dealt with the changes and the challenges so brilliantly.”
She says the whole team was “overwhelmed” with the reaction they received from home.
“The fact that there was 14 hours of coverage in Australia, the fact that people were in lockdown and not able to go anywhere was a silver lining for us in a way,” she says. “…So many more eyeballs on the Paralympic team than ever before and hopefully a realisation of what an amazing team it is.”
McLoughlin believes the focus on performances and not disabilities has been a gradual shift. David Culbert, a commentator for both the Olympic and Paralympic games, agrees.
“At the end of the day the classification system whilst not 100% perfect in Paralympic sport, it groups like athletes with like athletes, so you can remove that element of it and just concentrate on the performance,” he says. “What times they do are only relevant to the times that they do, so therefore you need to know their personal bests, their season’s best, the Paralympic records…”
He says the Games offered a glimpse of hope for people with a disability and their parents.
“The interesting thing about the Paralympics is that there would be a lot of parents that would be worried about their young children who have got a disability, whether it’s congenital or whether it’s acquired, they would be watching that and thinking that’s there’s nothing my son or daughter can’t do…”
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