The year 2020 was to be like no other for the Paralympic Movement in the Oceania region. A year filled with medals for some of the most developed countries, and a year filled with new milestones for the Small Island Countries Movement.
While the year was not like the others – a year not to be missed – the Oceania region is celebrating success, with so many highlights that will only guarantee further success in the years to come.
The Australian Open is always a highlight for tennis fans around the world. One of the last international events before sporting events across the world came to a halt, Dylan Alcott once again won by beating Andy Lapthorne 6-0, 6-4 to win the final at Rod Laver Arena . In a generous show of humanity, he donated AUD 40,000 of his prize to people with disabilities affected by the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires.
Japan’s Shingo Kunieda, although not originally from the Oceania region, also made history at the Australian Open by tying Dutch Esther Vergeer’s record on Sunday by winning 44 titles in the Wheelchair Tennis Grand Slam.
A key achievement and highlight for 2020 in the Oceania region was the participation of the seven Pacific NPCs in the Queensland Track and Field Championships, including the International Classification for the Visually Impaired and Physically Impaired. This was only made possible thanks to the financial support program of the IPC.
The grant investment is the largest and most successful for the Oceania Paralympic Committee, and has enabled the region to have all NPCs now with ranked athletes and potential to have full representation of our region in Tokyo.
At the Queensland State Championships in Australia, all seven countries won at least one medal that will help promote parasport in the region, two athletes met a minimum admission standard in Tokyo, and eight performances were within of 5% of the minimum standard, proving that momentum is being built.
Like many parts of the world, Paralympians were in demand in these unprecedented times with people around the world looking for their strength, adaptability and ability to win.
Three Australian athletes shone more than ever before an audience outside of sport. Madison de Rozario’s career and achievements have been recognized with the Australian Paralympic athlete commemorated as a Barbie toll.
Rozario, along with many other female para-athletes, has become a âShe-roâ doll for International Women’s Day. De Rozario worked closely with the team at Mattel to create his likeness, which includes his iconic platinum hair and top knot, racing chair and hand guards.
Additionally, Ellie Cole and Ryley Batt, also Australians, all had their eyes on them after starring in the Netflix hit Rising Phoenix. Along with seven other athletes, they captivated audiences around the world, displaying the values ââof the Paralympic movement to a whole new audience.
Students in schools across Australia got a taste of the Paralympic Games, with IPC’s educational program boosting their spirits during testing times. Paralympians have delivered messages of hope and strength to students in Australian schools who have faced the challenges of the pandemic.
As part of the IPC’s I’mPOSSIBLE global education program, Paralympians have connected virtually to classrooms in their respected countries. They shared their personal stories and encouraged more discussion between the children, while introducing them to a new world of sport that many had never discovered before.
In a year of extreme challenges, one story has struck the hearts of many around the world. The Kiribati team traveling for the Queensland Track and Field Championships left Tarawa with great fanfare from their country as the first para athletes to represent Kiribati in an international competition. With visa issues complicating their final preparations, it was extreme luck that saw them arrive safely in Australia on February 29.
After some island countries’ success at the Queensland State Track and Field Championships, the team found themselves in a long, exhausting and mentally difficult situation stranded in Fiji due to international borders being closed.
It was nine months of hardship, being away from home for the two athletes, Karea Tioti and Ongiou Timeon and it was also the determination of their coach Karotu Bakae to lift them, support them and take care of them at the during the period of time that showed the Paralympic Valor of our Kiribati family’s courage. The resilience of the team was something to see.
Part of being involved in the Paralympic movement is paying tribute to those who paved the way for today’s rising stars. Paralympics NZ has launched a mission to find 22 of their famous Paralympians, or their families, as part of Project Celebration.
The campaign was launched in 2019 and recognizes former Paralympians, honoring them with pins and numbers to mark their place in history. While 77 had already been found, there are still more they keep looking for and have used their confinement time to search.