As with the Olympics each cycle, we are drawn into a world of sports we otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to when the Paralympics roll around.
This is a triathlon for athletes with either visual or physical impairments. They must race across a 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run. Many vision-impaired athletes compete with a guide—fellow triathletes—and essentially become a team for the games.
Australian woman Katie Kelly is the reigning Paralympic Gold Medallist in the PTVI category, and will be guided by a new partner at these games, Briarna Silk, as she aims to retain her Gold. Also representing Australia is Lauren Parker, her discipline the PTWC Para-triathlon. Parker was an elite able-bodied athlete who after a serious cycling accident left her a paraplegic, set her sights on a medal at the Paralympic Games.
Think your at-home Bocce tournament each Easter but even more competitive, with softer leather balls (kind of like a round leather beanbag) and medals on the line. The white jack is the aim, and each side has six of their own balls to throw in an effort to land closest to that jack. This is a sport for athletes with significant impairments to all of their limbs, and different athlete classifications will see various aides come into play at times.
Australia has one woman competing in Tokyo, Jamieson Leeson, who has simultaneously been training for the Games and studying to complete her final year of high school. Leeson won the first competition she ever competed in just a year after starting the sport, taking gold at the 2019 NSW State Titles.
At the Paralympics, para-shooting is for athletes with physical impairments and there are events in both rifle and pistol shooting. Australia has one woman competing, Natalie Smith, for whom Tokyo will be her third Games. After a hiking accident left her a paraplegic, Smith arrived at a Paralympics Australia talent search event a decade ago, tried para-shooting and leant in.
Smith won bronze in the 10m air rifle standing R2 SH1 at London in 2012 and came fifth in the same event at Rio in 2016. She’ll be competing across four disciplines in Tokyo.
A sport created specifically for those with vision impairment, athletes take to a court and listen for bells within the 1.25kg ball, prepared to throw their bodies wherever needed to block its path to goal. Kirby Fenwick shared a focused look at Australia’s Women’s Goalball team, the Aussie Belles earlier this year.
The Aussie Belles’ 2020 Paralympics side consists of Amy Ridley, Brodie Smith, Jenny Blow, Meica Horsburgh, Raissa Martin and Tyan Taylor.
For the first time, Para-badminton is a Paralympic Sport. Disciplines include singles, doubles or mixed doubles in either wheelchair or standing categories. Caitlin Dransfield will be the first Australian woman to compete in the sport at Paralympic level, in the standing discipline.
From a background playing various sports, including para-tennis at a high level, Dransfield enters the Games as both an Australian and Oceanic champion in para-badminton.