On the eve of the Paralympics Games, it is with great pride that I reflect on the commendable and inspiring campaign of the 60-strong athletics section of the Australian Olympic Team at Rio 2016.
Led by medallists Jared Tallent (silver, 50km walk) and Dane Bird-Smith (bronze, 20km walk), our athletes delivered a total of nine top-eight performances when it counted on the Olympic stage, including; Alana Boyd (pole vault), Dani Samuels (discus throw), Kathryn Mitchell (javelin), Brooke Stratton (long jump), Madeline Hills (3000m steeplechase), Henry Frayne (long jump) and the women’s 4x400m relay.
Further, 28 athletes achieved a performance that ranked them admirably in the top-16, an increase of 16 from London 2012 four years ago. Of these, nine are aged under 25, which is double that achieved by similarly aged athletes at the last Olympic Games.
Impressively, 65% of athletes improved their international ranking, highlighting their ability to perform in arguably the toughest competition cauldron on the planet.
On behalf of the Athletics Australia Board of Directors, I extend congratulations to Australia’s athletics section, their support network of coaches, family and friends. I also extend our thanks to the athletics team staff, including management, coaching and medical services.
The Australian Olympic Team as a whole should also be commended for its efforts on the world stage. As analysis of performance begins, it is crucial that we first and foremost applaud the athletes who worked tirelessly to ensure their selection, prepared diligently, and then put everything on the line against the best athletes from across the world.
To the Australian athletics community of which you are a member, thank you for encouraging our athletes to be their best and for sharing the experience of the Olympic Games with us.
Now, join with us in wishing our Paralympians good luck as they begin their quest for success in Rio.
Leading the way will be wheelchair racing legend and four-time Paralympian Kurt Fearnley (NSW), the Australian
Paralympic Team co-captain, along with a contingent of reigning champions including Evan O’Hanlon (ACT), who successfully defended the para-athletics 100m and 200m for athletes with cerebral palsy in world record time at London 2012.
Current world champion Angie Ballard (NSW), her training partner Madison de Rozario (WA), ambulant long jumper Carlee Beattie (Qld), defending shot put champion Todd Hodgetts (TAS), and cerebral-palsy sprint class world record holder Isis Holt (Vic), who will be making her Paralympic debut in Rio, are also among the other strong gold medal hopes named in the very formidable team.
United as one, we can take the sport of athletics to great heights in the London 2017 IAAF World Championships, the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018 and Tokyo 2020.
I look forward to continuing the journey with you.
Athletics Australia President