Staggering $1.2 million truth emerges about Aussies at Paralympics

·Sports Editor
·3-min read
Madison de Rozario and Curtis McGrath, pictured here after winning gold at the Paralympics.
Madison de Rozario and Curtis McGrath were just two of Australia's Paralympic medallists. Image: Getty

Australia's chef de mission Kate McLoughlin has revealed the plan hatched at a Melbourne coffee shop five years ago that paid massive dividends for the Australian Paralympic team in Tokyo.

Rather than separate different teams thrown together in the same uniform once every Paralympics, the Australians now belong to "The Mob".

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It's a theme drawn from the Australian Indigenous concept of mob, or family, and team chef de mission McLoughlin said it defined their Tokyo campaign.

McLoughlin, team co-captain Danni di Toro and TV commentator Tim Matthews devised the idea at the Brunswick cafe before the Rio Games five years ago on how to create a genuine team spirit.

They then brought in Rio co-captain Kurt Fearnley and started to see some changes at the 2016 Games, but really saw the fruits of their labours over the last fortnight.

"We were thinking 'how can we make them feel like they're part of something bigger and it's not something where we just throw them all together once every four years and say love each other, be an Australian team?'," McLoughlin told AAP

"It genuinely feels like we've moved from that work in Rio really well and it's come to the fore during Covid as well."

In strict terms of performance, Australia didn't quite reach expectations in Tokyo.

Madi de Rozario's gold and a silver for Jaryd Clifford on Sunday in the marathons brought the team total to 21 gold, 29 silver and 30 bronze.

It was one less gold than Rio and one less overall than the unofficial team prediction, while Australia also dropped from fifth to eighth on the medal table.

"How wonderful that it is so difficult to win a Paralympic gold medal," McLoughlin said.

"The value of them has increased exponentially."

Kate McLoughlin, pictured here speaking to the media in Sydney.
Kate McLoughlin speaks to the media in Sydney. (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Staggering $1.2 million windfall for Australia's Paralympians

The federal government certainly recognises that value, bowing to public pressure during the Games and announcing funding for all Australian Paralympic medals.

The scheme will match the Australian Olympic Committee's funding - $20,000 for a gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze - a total of nearly $1.2 million.

Despite the disappointing overall result, the table tennis team broke a 37-year gold medal drought and the cycling team also exceeded expectations.

There was also a sense in Tokyo that the Paralympians are being respected more as athletes in their own right.

"I feel it's a tipping point and it feels so good for the athletes," McLoughlin said.

"Quite often people would say 'it's just good they got there'.

Dylan Alcott, pictured here after winning gold at the Paralympics.
Dylan Alcott celebrates after winning gold at the Paralympics. (Photo by Ilse Schaffers/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

"Those guys don't get out of bed every morning just to get there, they go (to the Games) to win.

"They are elite athletes in every sense of the word."

Asked to nominate a Games highlight, McLoughlin was rapt that Dan Michel broke Australia's 25-year medal drought in boccia with his bronze.

Her heartbreak was seeing Lauren Parker beaten for gold in triathlon by just .01 of a second.

But the pandemic meant McLoughlin's strongest emotion was just joy that the Games happened at all.

"It was really emotional - 12 months ago, six months ago, three months ago, we were debating would this actually happen," she said.

"We were arguably walking into a more dangerous situation in Japan (than the Olympics) - the (Covid) cases had risen significantly.

"It was a character-building campaign."

with AAP

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