From 24th of August through to the 5th of September, our eyes will be glued to the Paralympics in Tokyo 2021.
This year’s Aussie team will include numerous athletes who have suffered severe spinal cord injuries but have managed to excel in their respective sports.
Just like finding a cure for spinal cord injury, hard work, determination, and often many years of effort, are behind every Paralympian’s success.
Emma Booth (Para-equestrian)
Emma Booth was always fond of horses, and her goal of riding one came true when she won pony and riding lessons in a competition. Unfortunately, Emma’s dreams of becoming an equestrian were put on hold in 2013 when she was involved in a near-fatal car accident—causing paraplegia.
“There were plenty of tears in that initial period, but I just wanted to ride again,” she said.
Seven months later, Emma returned to riding. After finding out about the possibility of becoming a Para-equestrian, her goal was to earn selection for the 2016 Australian Paralympic Team, which she achieved. Fast forward to having earned her spot in the Tokyo Paralympics; we have no doubt Emma will build from her past performances and put herself into gold medal contention this year.
Follow Emma on Instagram @emmabooth_paraequestrian
Anton Zappelli (Para-shooting)
Anton is a talented Para-shooter who has won bronze at IPCS 2015 World Cup in Osijek, Croatia. He debuted in the Paralympics the following year in Rio. He competed in two events and achieved a personal best, finishing 18th in the mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1.
Twenty-seven years earlier, he was involved in a horrific car accident, suffered a traumatic blow to his spinal cord, and became a T11/T12 paraplegic. Anton looked to sport after his recovery and said, “Sport was a big part of my recovery……it was probably the thing which pulled me together.”
Anton is now a father and balances his time between family, working within the not-for-profit sector and shooting commitments. We wish Anton all the very best in this year’s Tokyo Paralympics!
Follow Anton on Instagram @antonzappelli
Ben Fawcett (Wheelchair Rugby)
Ben Fawcett is a wheelchair rugby athlete looking to defend his gold medal in this year’s Tokyo Paralympics.
Ben has always been an active person, and despite a snowboarding accident that changed his life forever, he continues to find ways to stay fit. He sustained damage to his neck in a horrific crash-landing and spent the next six months in hospital in New Zealand. Later on, Ben returned home to Australia.
In 2010, Ben found wheelchair rugby and has been competitively playing the sport ever since. Ben’s incredible journey has rewarded him with a Paralympic Gold Medal and World Championship silver medal. Amazing!
Shelly Cronau (Wheelchair Basketball)
Following an accident in which she had severe injuries to her head and spine, Shelley Cronau for the first time watched the 2008 Paralympics and was inspired.
She decided to take up Wheelchair Basketball, playing her first game for the Sydney University Flames just two years later.
She helped the Australian team qualify for the 2012 Paralympics. A true warrior who plays with no fear, in an interview she shared her wisdom about her mindset leading into games stating “failure is what creates winning and greatness”.
She led the Aussie team to victory at the Asia-Oceania Zone Championships before going one better at the 2012 and 2013 Osaka Cups, winning gold. Leading into this year’s Paralympics, Shelly’s experience will undoubtedly add value to this year’s team, and we wish her the very best.
Follow Shelley on Instagram @shelleycronau
Lauren Parker (Para-triathlon)
Laren Parker is a phenomenal athlete. Previously an elite able-bodied triathlete, Lauren represented Australia and prepared for the 2017 Ironman Australia Triathlon before being severely injured. Lauren was travelling on her bike at 40km/hr when the accident happened and left her with multiple significant injuries, one of which left her with paraplegia.
Today Lauren is one of Australia’s most promising Para-triathletes. She is currently a world champion in the women’s PTWC, and incredibly won a Commonwealth Games bronze medal 12 months post-injury, and has performed at a high level in all but one race since returning in 2018.
Having the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic Lauren stated, “I just found the positives in a negative situation and I thought with another year up my sleeve, I can be better, fitter, stronger and faster for 2021. So, this gives me an opportunity to do that.”
Help cheer Lauren on!
Follow Lauren on Instagram @laurenparker2127
Read more about the Paralympics and our Paralympians or watch it in Australia on Channel 7.