Video available: 100 days to go to the London Paralympics
There is nothing quite like a significant milestone to sharpen the focus of AIS athletes. With 100 days to go until the start of the Paralympics in London, excitement levels and nervous energy are through the roof.
’It has come around so fast,’ says 20-year-old swimmer (S9) Ellie Cole, a three-time medallist in Beijing.
’It feels like only yesterday it was 365 days to go and you can definitely feel the tension in the air right now. Fingers are being crossed everywhere.’
Track sprinter Evan O’Hanlon, 24, who won three Paralympic gold medals in Beijing in 2008 and is the world record holder (T38) for 100m and 200m events, says his training group will mark the 100 days by moving north to the winter sun of the Gold Coast for the bulk of the lead up to London.
’One hundred days to go brings a lot of excitement for all of us,’ says O’Hanlon, who has been doing his own daily countdown on his Twitter feed @evanohanlon.
’There’s not much you can do to really affect your performance; it’s about not getting sick, staying healthy, continuing the training you have already done.’
Some 4200 athletes from more than 140 countries will gather for the largest Paralympic Games ever in London.
The Games are returning to the country that gave birth to the Paralympic movement in 1948, when Dr Ludwig Guttmann organised a wheelchair archery competition at Stoke Mandeville hospital for 16 World War II soldiers with spinal cord injuries.
Watch the video of Australian Paralympians Ellie Cole and Evan O’Hanlon and Australian Sports Commission CEO Simon Hollingsworth reflecting on the 100 day countdown.
Australian Sport Commission (ASC) CEO Simon Hollingsworth said the Paralympic teams and individuals have been training hard, many of them making the most of the AIS facilities.
’The Paralympic Games and the Olympic Games are the “Everest” of sport and our Australian athletes are preparing to climb the mountain in their search for gold,’ Hollingsworth said.
’Our role is to provide the best possible support and advice to our athletes and teams so they can maximise their performance in London.’
It’s that unrivalled level of support that has Cole and O’Hanlon confident of improving on their performances from four years earlier.
’The AIS is a fantastic place to be for Paralympic athletes,’ says O’Hanlon.
“It’s one of the few places in the world that where Paralympic athletes are treated as proper elite athletes and given opportunities that other elite athletes are given to become their best. Their support has been vital in my career and all my performances can be attributed to the AIS.
‘My girlfriend [Zuzana Schindlerova] is a race walker from the Czech Republic and she’s very jealous of what we have at the AIS, the facilities and the support we can get all in one site.’
Cole was first wowed by the AIS on a year 5 swimming trip and returned a year later for her year 6 camp, while at Mount Eliza North primary school in Victoria.
’I remember I saw all the athletes and thought ‘oh my gosh I can’t believe all these famous people,'’ Cole laughs.
’It was the most exciting part of that Canberra trip for me. Being here is something I always wanted to do since that camp but never imagined I would at the time. I’ve been here two and half years now and I’ve seen such a massive improvement - not just in the pool but, being around elite athletes all the time, I’ve found my mindset has changed.
‘It’s great having the facilities, all the support. They really take good care of you, making sure you have everything you need. If I’m back living in Melbourne, I’d need a job and wouldn’t be able to train as much.’
Cole, whose right leg was amputated as a three year old because of cancer, went to Beijing as an unknown teenager but made a stunning debut with a silver in the 100m butterfly and bronze medals in 400m freestyle and 100m backstroke, the event she gives herself a strong chance of winning in London.
'I have changed so much in four years,' she says. 'Back in Beijing I wasn’t even taking the sport that seriously. If I didn’t want to go training in the morning I wouldn’t get up. Here with people putting so much time and effort into you, you feel you’re not only cheating yourself if you do that but cheating everyone else.'
The Paralympics will see 503 medal events across 11 days of competition and Australia has finished fifth on the medal tally at the past two editions.
This time, the Australian Government has targeted Olympic and Paralympic glory through the Green and Gold Project which injected an additional $4.49 million into Australia’s top medal-winning Olympic and Paralympic sports.
It is part of an overall commitment of more than $100m provided directly to national sporting organisations and athletes for sports on the Olympic and Paralympic program in 2011-12.
For an informative look at Paralympic sport, take a look at the Australian Paralympic Commitee's YouTube channel.