Meet our Paralympians

Published: 06 Mar 2018

Twelve athletes and three sighted guides have been selected for the 2018 Australian Paralympic Team, after nine athletes represented Australia at Sochi 2014.

Of the 12 athletes and three guides selected in the 2018 Australian Paralympic Team, seven athletes and two guides will be competing at a Paralympics for the first time.

The youngest athlete on the team is Para-snowboarder Ben Tudhope, who will be 18 years and 86 days when the Games open on March 9. Tudhope made his Paralympic debut at Sochi 2014 as Australia’s youngest ever Winter Paralympian, aged 14 years and 84 days.

Para Apline Skiing

Mitchell Gourley (Barwon Heads, Vic)

  • Disciplines: Downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super-G, super combined Classification: LW6/8-2
  • Disability: Left below- elbow limb deficiency
  • How acquired: Congenital

Sport career highlight: Sharing the podium with Australian teammate Toby Kane at the 2012/13 IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup event in Sestriere, Italy.

Off the slopes: He studies a Master of Business (Sport Management) at Deakin University in Melbourne, having already completed a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne in 2014.

In his spare time: Mitchell enjoys cycling, mountain biking, rock climbing and doing crosswords.

Current world rankings as at 12/2/18:

  • Downhill: 5
  • Slalom: 9
  • Giant Slalom: 3
  • Super-G: 10
  • Super Combined: 3

Patrick Jensen (Birmingham Gardens, NSW)

  • Disciplines: Slalom, giant slalom Classification: B2
  • Disability: Macular dystrophy and Stargardt disease
  • How acquired: Congenital

Sport career highlight: Representing Australia at the 2017 World Para-alpine skiing World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy.

Off the slopes: Studies massage therapy at Evolve College, and is considering a career in physiotherapy after PyeongChang.

In his spare time: Patrick enjoys surfing, skateboarding, and playing the drums and guitar, and is the drummer of the Newcastle-based skramz band, George Booth.

Current world rankings as at 12/2/18:

  • Slalom: 14
  • Giant Slalom: 16

Jonty O’Callaghan (Melbourne, Vic)

  • Disciplines: Downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super-G, super combined Classification: LW9-1
  • Disability: Cerebral palsy – right side hemiplegia
  • How acquired: Congenital

Sport career highlight: Selection for the 2017 World Para-alpine skiing World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy Heroes: Nelson Mandela and Don Bradman.

Off the slopes: Jonty enjoys learning about World War I and II, travelling the world and watching The Walking Dead. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne, and considering further study in business or law.

In his spare time: A Melbourne local, Jonty is a diehard Geelong Cats fan.

Current world rankings as at 12/2/18:

  • Downhill: 42
  • Slalom: 29
  • Giant Slalom: 28
  • Super-G: 30
  • Super Combined: 29

Tori Pendergast (East Gosford, NSW)

Tori Pendergast
Photo: Australian Paralympic Team

  • Disciplines: Downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super-G, super combined Classification: LW12-1
  • Disability: Sacral agenesis
  • How acquired: Congenital

Sport career highlight: Winning gold at the 2014/15 IPC Alpine Skiing NorAm Cup event in Kimberley, Canada.

Off the slopes: In 2012, she completed a Bachelor of Business majoring in Marketing and International Business at the University of Technology, Sydney.

In her spare time: Tori enjoys free-skiing, kayaking, gaming and binge-watching Netflix.

Current world rankings as at 12/2/18:

  • Downhill: 8
  • Slalom: 13
  • Giant Slalom: 7
  • Super-G: 9
  • Super Combined: 8

Melissa Perrine (Welby, NSW)

  • Disciplines: Downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super-G, super combined Classification: B2
  • Disability: Cataracts, microphthalmia, nystagmus, glaucoma
  • How acquired: Congenital

Sport career highlight: Winning five medals at the 2015 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in Panorama, Canada.

Off the slopes: Melissa is studying a Master of Physiotherapy at Western Sydney University, after completing a Bachelor of Exercise Science in 2011 and Master of Exercise and Sports Science in 2012.

In her spare time: She enjoys reading and doing mixed martial arts.

Current world rankings as at 12/2/18:

  • Downhill: 5
  • Slalom: 2
  • Giant Slalom: 3
  • Super-G: 4
  • Super Combined: 9

Shaun Pianta (Collie, WA)

Shaun Pianta and sighted guide Jeremy O'Sullivan
Shaun Pianta, left, and sighted guide Jeremy O'Sullivan. Photo: Australian Paralympic Team

  • Disciplines: Slalom, giant slalom Classification: B3
  • Disability: Vision impairment
  • How acquired: Virus

Sport career highlight: Winning silver in the men’s vision impaired slalom at the 2016/17 World Para-alpine skiing Europa Cup event in Veysonnaz, Switzerland.

Off the slopes: Shaun enjoys doing ju-jitsu, mountain biking, fishing and watching the AFL. Currently a full-time athlete, he completed a boilermaking and welding apprenticeship after leaving school, and holds a Certificate III in Business.

Most embarrassing moment: Shaun once asked a statue for directions.

Current world rankings as at 12/2/18:

  • Slalom: 15
  • Giant Slalom: 25

Mark Soyer (Benalla, Vic)

  • Disciplines: Downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super-G, super combined Classification: LW11
  • Disability: Paraplegia
  • How acquired: Motorcycle accident

Sport career highlights: Representing Australia at the 2015 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in Panorama, Canada and the 2017 World Para-alpine skiing World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy.

Off the slopes: In 2001, he completed a degree at the Gemmology Institute of Australia, and currently works at a jeweller. In 10 years’ time, he hopes to have a business of his own.

In his spare time: Mark enjoys mountain biking, kayaking and watching the MotoGP.

Current world rankings as at 12/2/18:

  • Downhill: 29
  • Slalom: 31
  • Giant Slalom: 30
  • Super-G: 22
  • Super Combined: 30

Sam Tait (Renwick, NSW)

Sam Tait
Photo: Australian Paralympic Team

  • Disciplines: Slalom, super-G Classification: LW11
  • Disability: Paraplegia
  • How acquired: Motorcycle accident

Sport career highlight: Qualifying for the 2017 World Para-alpine skiing Europa Cup in Veysonnaz, Switzerland.

Off the slopes: Sam likes to watch football, Designated Survivor and Suits. He has completed a two-year course in computer-aided design detailing at TAFE and is considering further study in astrophysics, engineering or computing science.

In his spare time: He is a keen CrossFit athlete and would like to make a return to the sport after PyeongChang.

Current world rankings as at 12/2/18:

  • Downhill: 37
  • Slalom: 43
  • Giant Slalom: 68
  • Super-G: 37
  • Super Combined: 35

Lara Falk (Cooriemungle, Vic)

Classification: Sighted guide for Patrick Jensen

Disciplines: Slalom, giant slalom, super-G

Sport career highlight: Representing Australia at the 2017 World Para-alpine skiing World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy

Off the slopes: Lara began a Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning at La Trobe University in Melbourne but deferred in 2016. She would like to work in ski resort management.

In her spare time: She likes watching House of Cards, surfboat and riverboat rowing, and surf lifesaving.

Christian Geiger (Hope Island, Qld)

  • Classification: Sighted guide for Melissa Perrine
  • Disciplines: Downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super-G, super combined

Occupation: Christian is also currently the women’s coach of the Australian Para-alpine skiing team. In their first World Cup season together as sighted guide and athlete, Christian and Melissa won two gold, one silver and two bronze medals.

Favourite quote: “I am the me I choose to be.”

Jeremy O’Sullivan (Bright, Vic)

  • Classification: Sighted guide for Shaun Pianta
  • Disciplines: Slalom, giant slalom, super-G

Sport career highlight: Guiding Shaun Pianta to a win in the Men’s Downhill Visually Impaired at the 2016 USA National Championships in Aspen

Off the slopes: He is a talented musician with 17 years of experience playing the trumpet.  Jeremy is considering studying a Bachelor of Business and Management online through the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, with a view to getting involved in Para-sport administration and management.

In his spare time: He enjoys mountain biking, spending time with his girlfriend, and watching Suits and Land of the Lost.

Para Snowboard

Joany Badenhorst
Photo: Australian Paralympic Team

Joany Badenhorst (Griffith, NSW)

  • Disciplines: Banked slalom, snowboard cross. Classification: SB-LL2
  • Disability: Left below-knee limb loss
  • How acquired: Farming accident

Sport career highlight: Being Australia’s first female representative in Para-snowboard.

Off the slopes: A talented painter, Joany specialises in sketching portraits and cityscapes.

In her spare time: She enjoys drinking tea and watching Schitt’s Creek. Down the track, she would like to pursue a career in cosmetic prosthetics.

Current world rankings as at 12/2/18:

  • Snowboard Cross: 1
  • Banked Slalom: 3

Simon Patmore (Nundah, Qld)

Simon Patmore
Photo: Australian Paralympic Team

  • Disciplines: Banked slalom, snowboard cross Classification: SB-UL
  • Disability: Erb’s palsy
  • How acquired: Congenital.

Sport career highlight: Winning gold at the 2015/16 IPC World Cup event in Trentino, Italy.

Off the slopes: After the Games, he would like to add to his Certificate II and III in Information Technology with a Certificate III and IV in Fitness.

In his spare time: Simon enjoys hiking, camping and watching the A-League.

Current world rankings as at 12/2/18:

  • Snowboard Cross: 6
  • Banked Slalom: 5

Sean Pollard (South Bunbury, WA)

Sean Pollard
Photo: Australian Paralympic Team

  • Disciplines: Banked slalom, snowboard cross. Classification: SB-UL
  • Disability: Left above-elbow and right forearm limb loss
  • How acquired: Shark attack

Sport career highlight: Placing sixth in the Men’s Snowboard Cross SB-UL at the 2016/17 World Para-snowboard World Cup event in Sierra-at-Tahoe, USA.

Off the slopes: Sean is a qualified electrician and holds a Certificate III in Tourism.

In his spare time: He enjoys skateboarding.

Current world rankings as at 12/2/18:

  • Snowboard Cross: 11
  • Banked Slalom: 9

Ben Tudhope (Manly, NSW)

  • Disciplines: Banked slalom, snowboard cross. Classification: SB-LL2.
  • Disability: Cerebral palsy – left side hemiplegia.
  • How acquired: Congenital.

Sport career highlight: Winning bronze in the adaptive snowboard cross at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, USA Hero: Matt Robinson

In his spare time: He enjoys paddle boarding, surfing and skateboarding.

Favourite quote: “If you want something badly enough, you will find a way to adapt.”

Current world rankings as at 12/2/18:

  • Snowboard Cross: 6
  • Banked Slalom: 8
Tori Pendergast
Para-skier Tori Pendergast. Photo: Australian Paralympic Team