Now that the Olympians have moved out of Rio’s athletes’ village, the real super humans, the world’s Paralympians, have moved in.
The much anticipated 15th Paralympic Games have arrived in Brazil’s beachside capital, taking place from 8 to 19 September (AEST).
There are six University of Sydney Paralympians in the Australian team, including Angie Ballard, Rae Anderson, Jo Burnand, Jeremy McGrath, Jenny Blow and Prue Watt.
The Australian Paralympic Team comprises of 177 athletes, who will compete in 16 of the 22 sports at the Rio Games. More than 4,300 athletes from 160 nations will participate.
The Games are renowned for their countless inspirational moments and Rio promises to deliver all that and more.
Having already competed at three Paralympic Games, Sydney Alumna Angie Ballard is one of the world’s most respected wheelchair track athletes.
Known for her enduring versatility and meticulous preparation, Ballard has recorded success on the track over distances from 100 metres to 1500 metres – not to mention longer distances on the road.
In London 2012, she enjoyed her most successful Paralympic Games, winning two silver medals and a bronze.
In 2015, in Switzerland, she followed that up by breaking the six-year-old world record for the Women’s 400m T53.
Ballard was involved in a near-fatal car accident when she was seven, which left her a paraplegic. Today, besides being a four-time Paralympian, she is a highly regarded ambassador for her sport and a current board member of Wheelchair Sports NSW.
She’s also spent a fair time at Sydney, completing a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) (2009) and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) (2013), as well as being a SUSF Elite Athlete Program Alumna.
One of Australia’s most successful Paralympic swimmers, Prue Watt heads to her fourth games in Rio.
Watt was born prematurely causing retina damage and vision impairment. Her glittering career began when she was just 14, winning five silver medals and one bronze in Athens 2004. She captured her first gold in the 100metre breaststroke at London 2012.
Watt excels in freestyle, breaststroke and the medley. Awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2014 for services to sport, Watt is a SUSF Elite Athlete Program Alumna and former University Swim Club representative.
It is one thing to be called “awesome’ but you must be pretty special when your Goalball teammates honour you with the nickname ‘Awesome’, which is exactly what happened for Jenny Blow.
The Australian Women’s Goalball team, known as the ‘Aussie Belles’ will be competing in their second consecutive Paralympic Games in Rio.
Blow made her Paralympic debut in London 2012, having made her international entrance wearing the green and gold at the 2010 IBSA Goalball World Championships in England.
Having a congenital vision impairment, Blow is not one to be held back and is now a high school English and drama teacher, having graduated from the University of Sydney with a double major, Bachelor of Arts and Education.
Blow was presented with the NSW Institute of Sport, Academic Excellence Award in 2011, an Award sponsored by the University of Sydney.
She credits the amazing support of her family as instrumental in all her sporting success.
Goalball was introduced to the Paralympic Games in 1976 and is played exclusively by athletes with a visual impairment. The ball they use has bells inside it, so the two teams can track its movement on the court.
Jeremy will be one of five rowers who will make history in being the first ever Australian Team to represent the LTA boat class at a Paralympic Games.
After facing the reality of leg amputation at 16 years of age, McGrath lost all interest in sport. It wasn’t until watching rowing at the 2012 Olympics that McGrath realised rowing was a sport he could do despite his disability. McGrath is a University of Sydney student, studying a Bachelor of Applied Science (Occupational Therapy).
Looking ahead to a career after sport, McGrath said: “I would like to work within disability and try to get people to participate in sport and recreational activities."
As the Coxswain, it’s Jo Burnand’s job to physically and verbally control the boat’s steering, timing and speed in the Australian Paralympic Legs, Trunk and Arms (LTA) Mixed Coxed Four boat. Sydney student Jeremy McGrath is a crewmate.
However, such a crucial responsibility won’t phase Burnand who has been rowing since 1981 and has carved out a distinguished career as a doctor and medical administrator, now based in Canberra.
A slightly built, 54-year-old mother of three, Burnand helped qualify her boat for Rio at the Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta in Italy in May this year.
In a historic achievement this will be the first time ever Australia have entered this boat class at a Paralympic Games.
Burnand made her international rowing debut in 1986 with the Australian under-23 team. Burnand’s passion for rowing grew in leaps and bounds and she was awarded a scholarship at the AIS, to further her development in the sport.
She is also married to Olympic rowing medallist, Craig Muller, who won bronze as a member of the Men’s Eight at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Burnand has a Bachelor of Social Work and Graduate Certificate in Coaching Psychology from the University of Sydney.
If there was a gold medal for juggling more than one thing at a time Rae Anderson would be first on the podium.
In 2015, Anderson sat her final HSC exam at the British Consulate in Doha, Qatar, then tossed down the pen to throw the javelin on the same day at the International Paralympic Athletics World Championships.
Apart from javelin, Anderson also competes in Discus where she finished seventh in 2015, and sixth in the Women's Javelin in her classification.
Hailing from Wamberal on the NSW Central Coast, Anderson attended Terrigal High School. Battling the impacts of cerebral palsy, Anderson endured several operations on her left leg and hand as a child.
A fortunate meeting with Paralympic gold medallist, Evan O’Hanlon in 2010 steered Anderson into athletics where she found her mojo in the throwing events. She made her Australian Paralympic debut at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Anderson is a current student at the University of Sydney studying a Bachelor of Arts. She was recently chosen as the first woman with a disability as an ambassador for the Australian underwear brand Modibodi, epitomising her self-confidence and mantra to ‘just be yourself’.
With Rio 13 hours behind Sydney (AEST), know exactly when to tune in and catch all our community members the action.
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