Tonight I know we are all eagerly awaiting the adjournment of the House so that we can go home and get stuck into watching the opening of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. There are 179 Australian Paralympians putting the finishing touches on their preparations tonight and getting ready to inspire us all with their passion, their commitment and their pride in representing our nation over the next two weeks.
I’m proud to say that the electorate of Fisher is the absolute powerhouse of the Australian Paralympic team. There are 151 electorates represented in this House, so you might expect Fisher to have one or two athletes competing this fortnight. But there are no fewer than 10 Australian Paralympians out of the 179 either living or training in Fisher.
I have spoken already in this place about Liam Schluter, Katja Dedekind, Ruby Storm, Keira Stephens and Benjamin Hance, who have all headed from the USC Spartans to compete at Tokyo. Liam is going to his second Paralympics after years of bagging medals for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and the World Para Athletics Championships. I know Katja will be looking to repeat her success on the podium after snaring a bronze medal in the 100-metre backstroke S13 in Rio. Ruby Storm recently medalled in 10 separate events at the national championships and smashed records at the 2018 Pan Pac Para trials; I know we’re all looking forward to watching her performances. At just 18 years old Keira Stephens has just two previous international events to her name but already has a record of success, with silver at the Pan Pac Para Swimming Championships in the women’s 100-metre breaststroke. Benjamin Hance has had the perfect build-up to the Games; he’s the fastest S14 Australian in the men’s 100-metre backstroke, and he won his first long course Australian title in April this year.
Those are five terrific prospects in anyone’s book. But they are far from Fisher’s only representatives. They will be joined in the pool by double gold medallist and experienced veteran Blake Cochrane. Blake lives in Bli Bli but he trains in Fisher at USC, so I’ll claim him as one of mine; Blake and I know each other anyway. Go, Blake! We’re all looking forward to watching you. An expert in freestyle and breaststroke sprinting in the S8 category, Blake will be one to watch in the coming days. I have met Blake on a number of occasions, and he is an absolute top bloke.
Fellow USC Spartan and my fellow Alex Surf Club member Braedan Jason is also no stranger to the Paralympics, having competed in four events at Rio. With gold medals in three events at the Pan Pac games in 2018, Braedan will be looking to repeat his success on the biggest stage of all in both freestyle and butterfly.
Beyond our swimmers, Fisher is sending two members of our fantastic local Suncoast Spinners: Chris Bond OAM and Hannah Dodd. Chris has helped lead Australia to Olympic gold in wheelchair basketball at the two previous Olympics as well as to a world championship in the same four-year period. I’m lucky enough to know Chris through the Suncoast Spinners group, where, with the support of a grant of $243,000 from the Morrison government, he has been helping to lead a new wheelchair rugby program on the coast. His colleague Hannah Dodd is an incredible athlete, living with spina bifida. Not content with having been the top-ranked Australian competitor in grade IV equestrian, Hannah has now moved across to wheelchair basketball and will be heading to her second Paralympics in that new sport. Hannah is a tough competitor; she usually dislocates a shoulder during each game! I know she will bring that true Sunshine Coast grit to our team in Tokyo.
Finally, we’ll be seeing young Daniel Bounty, formerly of Pacific Lutheran College and Caloundra State High School in Fisher, who, at just 19 years of age, will be competing in the T38 1,500 metres. Daniel has been shaving seconds off his personal best in recent months, and we are all excited to see what he can do in Tokyo.
Australians, if you were inspired by the Olympics and the Olympians, please get involved in the Paralympics. If you think it’s inspiring to watch an athlete swim or run, it is even more inspiring to watch someone swim with no arms and no legs. Go, Aussies! Do well. We’re so proud of you. Best of luck.