The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham is coming to an end today, with Australian para-athletes competing in a range of events and contributing to the country’s success.
Australian para-athletes competed across events in athletics, swimming, cycling, table tennis, powerlifting, lawn bowls, triathlon and basketball.
One of Australia’s last medals of the Games was Lin Ma’s silver in the men’s 8-10 singles para table tennis against Welshman Joshua Stacey in a thrilling final.
Paralympian Yang Qian started the success in para table tennis for Australia with a win in the women’s 6-10 singles, overcoming tiebreaks in two of the four games it took to secure gold.
The Jackaroos lawn bowls team was no exception to the Australian tale of sporting success, as men’s para pair Damien Delgado and Chris Flavel took a 4-2 lead early in the final against Scotland.
However, the duo couldn’t hold onto the lead and finished 16-7 down, still claiming a respectable silver.
The women’s para pair in lawn bowls, Cheryl Lindfield and Serena Bonnell, also faced Scotland and went down 17-5, earning a silver medal.
Ms Lindfield was Australia’s oldest athlete at the Games, at 63 years of age, and dedicated the medal to her mother.
“I got a call just before we entered the village on day one, saying my mother hasn’t got long to live,” says Ms Lindfield.
“I think she’d be proud. I’m here today playing for her as well; she was a bowler, we played together.”
In the women’s para-powerlifting, Hani Watson snatched Australia’s first medal in the sport since 2006, a bronze, with a 127kg lift. She said it was a “great 40th birthday present”.
New basketball event excites athletes and the crowd
Another highlight of the Games was the debut of 3×3 wheelchair basketball, in which both the men’s and women’s Australian teams did very well.
Lachlin Dalton shot a two-pointer in overtime to defeat England in the semi-final and was key to Australia’s gold medal 11-9 win in the following match against Canada.
Teammate Luke Pople, who shot three consecutive goals to take Australia to the top position, says Mr Dalton’s nickname ‘The King Slayer’ is apt for a player in such good form.
“He’s been awesome all tournament. He’s the guy that gets the team up and about and he gets big shots,” says Mr Pople.
The women’s basketball team took silver against Canada, fighting hard but losing the final match 14-4.
With a smaller court and highly physical game style, the 3×3 basketball was a hit with crowds and a chance for athletes to show some different skills to what is required for full court basketball.
Australia’s wheelchair racers cycle to victory
Wheelchair racer Madison de Rozario starred as a consistent medallist at the Games, taking gold in the women’s T53-54 marathon and 1500m – in which she was followed closely by Australia Angie Ballard who earned silver.
Ms de Rozario claimed double gold medals for similar events at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the Tokyo Paralympics.
She told AAP News the 1500m was a “cagey race” that she was “happy to come away with”.
“I’ve not done a lot of track work and the track is so technical, you get out of the habits of it,” says Ms de Rozario.
“I didn’t nail it out there, I made a few mistakes, but it all came together and I was really happy with it.
“It’s a different type of confidence you have to have [racing from the front].
“You can’t second-guess yourself in that moment; if there’s one mistake then it’s all gone.”
Now the most decorated Commonwealth Games Australian para-athlete, Ms de Rozario says she couldn’t let her previous successes put pressure on her to do well in the races.
“You try and look at each race in isolation, you can’t let whatever happens before colour it too much,” she told AAP News.
“But to get to retain a title is always a privilege.”
Fellow wheelchair racer, Sam Carter, secured a bronze medal in the men’s 1500m, against a “terrific group of athletes”, after switching from sprinting at the Rio and Tokyo Paralympics to the longer race for the Commonwealth Games.
Mr Carter says, “My first major championship medal, so a really incredible milestone for me. I’m feeling really motivated and onward and upward from here.
“I’ve been really loving the training and been falling in love with track all over again.”
Australia has finished the Games at the top of the medal tally with 66 gold, 55 silver and 53 bronze in total.
The Closing Ceremony will be held at 5 am AEST tomorrow morning.