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Canberra to get a taste of Paralympics as world’s fastest clash

Laura Peppas

Canberrans who won’t be flying to Rio for the 2016 Paralympic Games will get the next best thing this month, with some of the world’s finest athletes to compete in an elite event at the Australian Institute of Sport.

The GIO Summer Down Under International Track Meet on 20 and 21 January will see about 60 wheelchair athletes from around the world descend on the AIS, including home-grown athletes Kurt Fearnley OAM, Angie Ballard, Rich Nicholson, Rheed McCracken and Madi de Rozario.

The series has grown from a road single race to two international competitions, road and track events, with Canberra hosting two evenings of wheelchair racing before the athletes travel to Sydney for the second leg of the series.

Wheelchair Sports NSW spokesperson Kathleen Nicholls says the free event will include about 60 races each evening, ranging from 100 to 5,000 metres, with athletes aiming to make Paralympic Games qualification.


Photo courtesy of Wheelchair Sports NSW

“It’s a hugely entertaining event because all the races are so different, and the caliber of the athletes is just so high – we’ve got the fastest Paralympic champions and world champions from all over the world, with men and women aged from juniors to masters,” says Kathleen.

“It’s an international competition on home soil – the Australian athletes often don’t get the chance to show what they can do in front of a home crowd, and likewise the public don’t often get the chance to see these kind of competitions in their own town, to get right up alongside them and cheer the Aussies on. It’s really unique, there’s actually no other event like it in Australia throughout the year.”

The series will kick off with a Race on Rollers at City Walk (between the Canberra Centre and the water fountain on Ainslie Place) on 19 January, where members of the public will get the chance to race against a wheelchair athlete.

Canberra’s own Angie Ballard, who has won silver and bronze medals in the Paralympic Games, says she is looking forward to getting the chance to compete in front of her hometown at the track meet.

Canberra's Angie Ballard.

Canberra’s Angie Ballard. Photo courtesy of Wheelchair Sports NSW.

“This is a chance to prepare for the Paralympics, and it is an opportunity to get selection in our teams as we’re all under a lot of pressure at the moment to improve on our times,” Angie says.

“I love racing at the AIS, it’s such a fast track and it means my family who won’t be able to fly to Rio will get to see me compete.”

GIO spokesperson Paul Lawton says he hopes the company’s sponsorship of the event allows Wheelchair Sports NSW to continue to provide opportunities for Australians of all abilities to experience the challenge, camaraderie, and sense of achievement that sport can offer.

“This is an opportunity to showcase the talent of these athletes at an amazing venue,” says Paul.

“This is a chance for people to see just how talented these athletes are. It’s also a very family friendly event, perfect to take the kids to in the school holidays.”


The essentials


What: GIO Summer Down Under International Track Meet

Where: Australian Institute of Sport, Leverrier St, Bruce ACT 2617

When: Wednesday 20 January and Thursday 21 January at 5.30pm

How much: Free

Web: wsnsw.org.au/sports/summer-down-under/

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Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

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