Para athletes have battled to be recognised for decades.
But next year the Gold Coast will showcase para-sport in a way that’s never been seen before.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games will feature 45 per cent more athletes and 73 per cent more medals than Glasgow.
For para athletes it will be a landmark event.
Annie Pullar reports.
Outside the pool, Brenden Hall’s body tells a story of its own.
In the water, he’s a three-time World Champion and Paralympic titleholder.
Lap by lap, he’s chasing perfection.
At just 23, he finds it surreal to be considered a veteran of Australia’s swim team.
Brenden Hall, Paralympian: “As a para-athlete going into your first Commonwealth Games you don’t know what to really expect. You’re in a different environment to what you’re use to, and you’re all of the sudden on a team where you have all your able bod athletes. I was in the dining hall in Glasgow and Usain Bolt was walking around and I’d never got to be able to experience that before.”
Both Hall and training partner Lakeisha Patterson have won gold on sport’s biggest stage.
Next year they’ll have the chance to perform in front of a home crowd.
Brenden Hall, Paralympian: “It’s pretty exciting to know that on the Gold Coast we will be competing in the biggest ever para-sport event we’ve ever seen in the history of the Commonwealth Games.”
The Gold Coast will set a new record for para-events, hosting up to 300 para-sport athletes and 38 medal events across seven sports.
Kate Jones, Commonwealth Games Minister: “This is the first major integrated Commonwealth Games that I think will really change the way that people look at our para-athletes going into the Commonwealth Games and to the future.”
Patterson stormed to gold in Rio, breaking the world record and defeating her childhood idol, Jessica Long.
She has a message for those wanting to emulate her success.
Lakeisha Patterson, Paralympian: “There’s a saying that goes, “the body achieves what the mind believes,” and I definitely think that that’s a big part of how you get to where you are.”
Elite swimming is more than just one race on television before a medal ceremony.
Training is grueling and days are long.
But for Hall and Petterson, it’s all worth it to perform on home soil.
The Gold Coast is going for gold in its quest to deliver an inclusive games, but Australian swimmers with Down Syndrome say unfair rules are excluding them from competing at the Paralympics.
They are now on a mission to level the playing field.
Down syndrome super-fish Jack Dixon has two World Championships under his belt.
But what he really wants is a chance to swim on the big stage.
Helen Dixon, Jack’s Mum: “It’s disappointing because he trains as hard as all those athletes that make the para-swimming team and trains alongside some of them but with his disability there’s no way that he would ever be able to make a Paralympics team.”
The problem for Down Syndrome Athletes is that the Paralmypics doesn’t have a category that recognises both their physical and intellectual impairments.
Swimmers can try to qualify in the intellectual impairment category alone.
But Jack’s mum Helen says it’s a long shot.
Helen Dixon, Jack’s Mum: “We think that really there should be an extra box, there should be fifteen boxes and that fifteenth box should be swimmers with down-syndrome.”
Yet Dixon is still hopeful of competing at a major event one day.
Jack Dixon, World Champion: “One day, yeah I will.”
While the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games will be landmark for para-athletes, the hope is that the next Games will be even greater.
Annie Pullar, QUT News.