Looking back at the 2019 Virtus (Inas) Global Games – Table Tennis

History was made in Brisbane with the first single class Factor 20 event sanctioned by International Table Tennis Federation, ITTF.

Twenty (20) countries entered their best players in the competition and justified the support of the ITTF in sanctioning the Table Tennis competition at the Games.

With the world’s best players in action officials and spectators were treated to some amazing table tennis competition during the week.

France dominated Table Tennis fielding strong teams in all 3 categories and finished on top of the Table Tennis medal Table with 7 Gold, 6 Silver and 8 Bronze medals. Russia finishing second with 3 gold medals and Japan third with 2 Gold, 1 Silver and 3 Bronze medals.

Host nation Australia fielded a small team of 4 men (Sam von Einem, Rory Carroll, Jonathon Tan and Ashley Parrott) in the II-1 Singles, Doubles and Teams events, winning 1 Gold, 1 Silver and a Bronze and finishing 4th on the medal table.

The men’s II-1 singles final was a battle between the World number 2 Peter Palos (Hungary) and World number 4 Sam von Einem (Australia). Playing some of his best table tennis, von Einem overcame World number 3 player Lucas Creange (France) in the semi final, while Palos also had a tough game against World number 7 Takeshi Takemori. The final was a close match and thankfully for the local crowd, a victory for the Australian.

Von Einem then paired with fellow Australian Rory Carroll to win Silver in the teams and Bronze in the Doubles events.

Women’s World number 1 Elena Pokofeva from Russia took on an unranked player Ting Ting Wong from Hong Kong in the women’s II-1 singles final. It was an incredible achievement for Wong to reach the final defeating many players ranked above her including World number 2 and fellow country woman Mui Wui Ng in the semi final. Pokofeva was too strong in the final showing why she is ranked the World number 1 female table tennis player.

Table Tennis also introduced the Virtus II-2 and II-3 categories for the first time. (Full results attached.)

Competitions were conducted at the Chandler sports complex and the Brisbane Table Tennis Centre.

 

Looking back at the 2019 Virtus (INAS) Global Games

On this day in 2019, 7 days after the Opening Ceremony, the Virtus (INAS) Global Games Brisbane came to a close.

As Sydney did in 2000, Brisbane took the Virtus Global Games to another level and the athletes responded with some outstanding competitions and World records.

The Games was not just about the sport it included, but also included an International Summit with World class speakers such as Andrew Parsons, President International Paralympic Committee(Brazil), Stephen Frost, Founder of Frost Included,(England), Catherine Carty UNESCO Chair Manager(Ireland), Professor Jennifer MacTavish, Dean of Yeates School, Ryerson (Canada), Professor Jan Burns, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Canterbury University, Katie Kelly, Paralympic Gold Medallist OAM, Dr Jonathon Welch, Choir of Hard Knocks, Kate Palmer AM CEO of Sport Australia, Lynne Anderson, CEO of Paralympics Australia.

The support of the Brisbane City Council, Queensland and Federal Governments was incredible.

Brisbane saw nine new countries competing for the first time – Colombia, Indonesia, Israel, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, People’s Republic of China, Sri Lanka and Singapore.

Other activities included an Arts and culture program and school activation programs for months leading into the Games.  Sports of Australian Rules Football (AFL) and Netball also joined the Games as exhibition sports, showcasing the ability of athletes to the World.

As the Local Organising committee we established bold objectives to challenge perceptions, change attitudes and strengthen communities both locally and globally

With the support of all involved and the performances of the athletes leading into, during and post the Games we believe we reached our goals and left a lasting legacy for elite athletes with an intellectual impairment.

In Swimming, we saw 25 World records broken at the Chandler Aquatic Centre.  Athletics added another 4 World records.

Table Tennis obtained the first ever single class factor status from the International Table Tennis Federation, International governing bodies such as World Para Athletics, World Para Swimming, International Table Tennis Federation, International Tennis, International Taekwondo sanctioned events at the Games.  All sports were run by state and National sporting organisations.

At the Opening ceremony President of the International Paralympic Committee Andrew Parsons announced “ INAS is a part of the Paralympic family and I look forward to more events in more sports being included into the Paralympic Games.”  and then he sent a message during the Games  ‘ I have been following the Games through social media and it looks fantastic.  Very good job.  You should be proud, you are raising the bar for the next organiser.”

After an action packed week we watched the Games come to an end at the State Netball Centre with the finals of the men’s and women’s Basketball.

INAS, the Governing body launched a bold new brand – Virtus, based on the values and emblem comprising four elements that characterize athletes with an intellectual impairment – Character, Excellence, Courage and Integrity.

As we remember the 2019 Virtus Global Games, we also look forward to the next Virtus Global Games to be held in Vichy France in 2023

 

The Games at a Glance

  • International Sport Summit
  • Arts and Culture Program
  • Opening Ceremony
  • AFL
  • Athletics
  • Basketball
  • Cricket
  • Cycling
  • Futsal
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Table Tennis
  • Taekwondo-Poomsae
  • Tennis
  • Closing Ceremony
  • 48 Countries
  • Nine new countries
  • Just under 1000 athletes

Ambassadors

  • Pat Rafter
  • Jeff Horn
  • Daniel Fox

12-19 October 2019 Brisbane

www.gg2019.org
www.virtus.sport

Looking back at the 2019 Virtus (Inas) Global Games – Athletics


One of the feature sports at a Games, athletics once again drew the largest number of athletes competing from 34 countries.

Several countries were making their debut in Athletics at the Global Games.  New Zealand, China, Denmark, Singapore, Malaysia, Egypt, Sri Lanka and Israel.

Australia fielded it’s largest team of 36 athletes for the Games with entries is all categories.

As in swimming the Athletics competition had introduced the new Virtus categories of II-2 and II-3.

Spain’s Francisco Perez Carrera was the outstanding male athlete in the II-1 category winning Gold  medals in the men’s 110m hurdles and Pole Vault and a silver medal in the Heptathlon.   Eight  (8) women won 2 Gold medals in the women’s II-1 events with Ecuador’s Najely Minda Lara collecting 2 Gold medals in the 4 x 100m and 4 x 400m relays and a Bronze medal in the women’s 1500m.

Spain’s Blanca Orihuela was the leading medallist winning 5 Gold medals in the women’s II-2 category.  Orihuela winning the 100m, 200m, 400m, Long Jump and Triathlon events.

France’s Nicolas Virapin collected 4 Gold medals in the men’s II-2 events winning the 100m, 200m, Long jump and Triathlon events.

Australia’s Annabelle Johnson and Jacob Sesar collected 4 and 3 Gold medals respectively in the II-3 events.  Both athletes won the 100m, 200m and 400m events with Johnson also winning the women’s Long jump.

France topped the medal table in Athletics with 11 Gold 7 Silver and 8 Bronze, with Spain (10,5,2) and Russia (7,3,1) in second and third place.

The athletics competition included night sessions for only the second time in history and was well supported by spectators and competitors from other sports.

Virtus World records were achieved in the women’s Discus by France’s Gloria Agblemagnon with a throw of 43.63m and the men’s 4 x 100m with the Italian team of 1) Gaetano Schimmenti, Ruud Koutiki Tsilulu, Mario Bertolaso and Raffaele Di Maggio recording a time of 43.26s to take Gold.

Two (2) World Para Athletics World records were also established in the competition.  Japan’s  Kazuhiro Morita established a new World record in the 10,000m with his time of 31:53.04.  Russia’s Aleksandra Ruchkina leaping 11.93m in the women’s Triple jump.

 

Looking back at the 2019 Virtus (Inas) Global Games – Swimming

One of the first events to get underway at the 2019 Virtus (Inas) Global Games was the sport of Swimming.  Traditionally one of the biggest at the Games, swimming had also attracted the world’s best swimmers, many fresh from the World Para Swimming Championships which were held in London in September 2019.  With the inclusion of the Virtus II-2 and II-3 groups swimming was by far the largest competition at the Games.

The high class fields and world class facility ensured there was plenty of action with a total of 25 World records broken or established.  Eighteen (18) of the records were in the II-1 group with four swimmers Viacheslev Emeliantsev (RUS), Liam Schluter (AUS), Mitchell Kilduff (AUS) and Jack Ireland (AUS) each claiming 3 records.  Seven (7) new records were established in the II-2 group.

Russia’s Valeria Shabalina dominated the swimming competition winning 11 Gold, 3 Silver and 1 Bronze medal along with her 1500m freestyle world record and was acknowledged at the closing ceremony as the Athlete of the Games.

Australia’s Phoebe Mitchell wasn’t far behind with 10 Gold, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze medal and a world record in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay.

It was an exciting program for the spectators with a minimum of 3 World records each day of competition.

Australia, Russia and Spain dominated the swimming and finished on top of the swimming medal tally, well clear of other countries.  Shabalina and Mitchell on their own would have finished in the top 10 countries on the overall Games Medal Table with Shabalina in 6th place and Mitchell 9th.

The Local Organising Committee established clear and ambitious goals to celebrate inclusive sporting excellence, by changing attitudes, challenging perceptions and strengthening communities locally and globally.   The performances of the swimmers, sports officials, event presentation and live streaming ensured the they were well on their way to reaching their goals.

 

II-1 World Records

1500m Freestyle             Women               Valeria Shabalina (Rus)
50m Butterfly                  Women               Yui Lam Chan (HK)
200m Butterfly               Women               Yui Lam Chan (HK)
4 x 50m Freestyle          Women               Australia (McTernan, Leonhardt, Fielden, Cook)
4 x 100m Freestyle         Women               Brazil (Carneiro, Ariodonte, Carneiro, Soares)
4 x 200m Freestyle         Women               Australia (McTernan, Leonhardt, Cook, Lucy)
4 x 100m Freestyle         Women               Brazil (Soares Carneiro, Carneiro, Ariodonte)
50m Freestyle                 Men                    Viacheslev Emeliantsev (RUS)
1500m Freestyle             Men                    Liam Schluter (AUS)
50m Backstroke               Men                    Viacheslev Emeliantsev (RUS)
200m Breaststroke         Men                    Artem Pavlenko (RUS)
50m Butterfly                  Men                    Viacheslev Emeliantsev (RUS)
400m Indiv Medley         Men                    Long Tin Chan (HK)
4 x 50m Freestyle            Men                    Australia (Ireland, Dyer, Kilduff, Stewart)
4 x 100m Freestyle         Men                    Australia (Ireland, Alford, Kilduff, Schluter)
4 x 200m Freestyle         Men                    Australia (Ireland, Kilduff, Alford, Schluter)
4 x 50m Medley               Men                    Hong Kong (Hui, Chan, Tang, Wong)
4 x 100m Medley            Men                    Korea (Chi, Kim, Cho, Kim)

 

II-2 World Records

100m freestyle                Women               Camino Martinez De La Riva (ESP)
4 x 200m freestyle          Women              Australia (Anderton, Crawford, Schlenner, Mitchell)
50m butterfly                  Men                    Eloy Molina Rodriquez (ESP)
200m butterfly                Men                    Colin Marks (AUS)
4 x200m freestyle           Men                    Australia (Marks, Dixon, Cox, Booysen)
4x50m medley                 Men                    Spain (Serrano Correoso, Hernandex Ortiz, Molina Rodriiguez, Gracia Nunez)
4 x 100m freestyle         Mixed                 Spain (Gracia Nunez, Martinez De La Riva, Agudo Ortega-Villaiz, Hernandez Ortiz)

Australian Sporting Alliance for people with a disability

Australian sport will be more inclusive of people with a disability, impairment or limitation thanks to the formation of the Australian Sporting Alliance for people with a disability. This Alliance consists of nine core organisations who have come together to form a key peak agency for sport and physical activity for people with a disability in Australia. 

 

The Alliance’s vision is that all Australians have an opportunity to engage in sport and physical activity in a welcoming and inclusive environment. To achieve this, we have agreed to work together to collaborate, advocate, and facilitate inclusive sport and physical activity for people with a disability, impairment or limitation.

 

The National Sporting Organisations for people with Disability (NSODs) involved, represent lead organisations whose participant numbers, members and volunteers involve millions of people across Australia and include:

  • Blind Sports Australia
  • Deaf Sports Australia
  • Disability Sports Australia
  • Disabled Wintersports Australia
  • Paralympics Australia
  • Riding for the Disabled Association Australia
  • Special Olympics Australia
  • Sport Inclusion Australia
  • Transplant Australia

The role of sport in building community, social inclusion and connectiveness has never been so important, especially in the groups of Australians we strive to represent. This ground-breaking initiative will enhance our ability to communicate with one-voice on many issues and government’s capacity to effectively and efficiently engage with the broader disability sporting sector.

 

Supported and funded by Sport Australia, an independent consultant will finalise a review and report on the agencies to develop a disability sport framework which will guide the strategic direction and planning for the collective. 

 

Contact: Dr Paul Oliver (Government Relations Working Group lead) on 0408 469 347.

France to host 2023 Virtus Global Games

The Virtus governing board has announced overnight that the 2023 Virtus Global Games has been awarded to France.

The team at Fédération Française du Sport Adapté (FFSA) are highly experienced in delivering high quality international sporting events and have the support of government and sporting organisations to make the Virtus Global Games 2023 a truly remarkable event.” Said Barry Holman Chair of the Virtus Global Games Committee.

Archie Graham and Jade Lucy lead Australia team during the Opening Ceremony at the 2019 Virtus Global Games in Brisbane.

The Virtus Global Games is the pinnacle sporting event for athletes with an intellectual impairment.  It is conducted every four years in the year preceeding the Paralympics, which in 2024, is in Paris, France.

The Virtus Global Games originated in Bollnas Sweden in 2004 following the expulsion of athletes with an intellectual impairment from the Paralympics.  The first Games featured  six sports and was held at the same time as the 2004 Paralympics and has since grown to become the premier event for elite athletes with an intellectual impairment.  Held every 4 years in the year preceeding the Paralympics the Global Games has grown to include a core 9 sports and demonstration sports.

Following the first Virtus Global Games in Sweden the Games have been held in Liberec – Czech Republic (2009),  Loano – Italy (2011), Guayaquil – Ecuador (2015) and Brisbane – Australia (2019).   The Brisbane Games achieved what Sydney achieved in 2000, raising the bar in terms of performance, profile, and recognition of the ability of athletes.  The Brisbane Games organising committee set ambitious goals to celebrate inclusive sporting excellence, by changing attitudes, challenging perceptions and strengthening communities locally and globally.   The success of the Games has provided Virtus with a platform to build in all facets of its mission – driving the development of elite sport worldwide for athletes with an intellectual impairment.

The Global Games logo designed in Australia has been adopted by Virtus and has become the Games logo and will be an ongoing legacy of the Brisbane Global Games.

Australia fielded its largest team of athletes across all sports in Brisbane and finished on top of the medal tally for the 4thconsecutive Games.

“We had our largest team of 164 athletes compete in Brisbane and we look forward to working with the National Sporting Organisations and the athletes to build another large Australia team to defend our Number one country status at the 6th Virtus Global Games in Vichy  France in 2023” said Helen Croxford, President of Sport Inclusion Australia.

Australian team Captains Archie Graham (Tennis) and Jade Lucy (Swimming) are two athletes who will be counting down the 1000 days as they prepare for the Virtus Global Games in Vichy.

The Brisbane Games was an incredible experience for me as Australian co-captain, I hope to be part of the Australian team again in France in 2023” said Jade Lucy.  This will be Lucy’s 3rd Virtus Global Games

It was an honour to welcome the World’s best athletes to Brisbane in 2019, I will be working hard to make the Australian team for the 2023 Virtus Global Games in Vichy” said Archie Graham.  France holds good memories for Graham having won the Virtus Tennis World Championships in Paris in 2018.

Sports to be included in the 6th Virtus Global Games France are:  Athletics, Basketball, Cycling, Futsal, Rowing, Swimming, Table Tennis, Taekwondo and Tennis.

The announcement by Virtus has come at a great time for all athletes around the world impacted by COVID-19 who have seen all of their events cancelled or postponed in 2020.  “This announcement provides the athletes with some certainty and a goal to work towards after the disappointment of 2020 ” Said Robyn Smith  CEO Sport Inclusion Australia

The Virtus announcement coincided with the milestone of 1000 days to go.  While we can look forward to the Games with some certainty athletes will have have numerous events leading up to the Games once competition resumes starting with State and National Championships, Tokyo Paralympics, inaugural Regional Asia/Oceania Games in 2022 and various other World Championships.

The 6th Virtus Global Games will be held in the town of Vichy from 4 to 10 June  2023.

As one coach so eloquently put it – “We now have a Goal”.

 

Contact

 

AUSTRALIAS PERFORMANCE AT VIRTUS GLOBAL GAMES

Year Host City Position Gold Silver Bronze Total
2004 Bollnas, Sweden 2nd 11 16 17 44
2009 Liberec, Czech Republic 1st 20 15 13 48
2011 Loano, Italy 1st 30 14 11 55
2015 Guayaquil, Ecuador 1st 20 10 7 37
2019 Brisbane, Australia 1st 48 53 54 155
2023 Vichy, France ? ? ? ? ?

 

Introducing Hugo Taheny 2019 INAS Global Games Discus Champion

Hugo Taheny comes from Point Turton, a small remote coastal town in South Australia with a population of just over 300.  A trip to Adelaide to compete at Athletics South Australia competitions is a 6 hour return trip for the family. A long trip for most, but for Hugo and his family it is just what you have to do.

Not surprisingly Point Turton is a little short of sporting facilities, coaches and throwing equipment, but that doesn’t stop Hugo or his family. Hugo’s older brother Tom and sister Lucy have also competed at National level in athletics, while Lucy also excelled in Netball as a scholarship holder at SASI.

The youngest child of John and Louise Taheny, Hugo has always loved his sport and has been competing in athletics, basketball and football at local competitions since he was 10 years of age. One advantage growing up on a farm is there are plenty of paddocks to practice throwing under Dad John’s watchful eye.

In addition to the regular trips to Adelaide to compete, Hugo had also travelled interstate on 3 occasions to represent South Australia in athletics competitions.

Well supported by his local community and Athletics SA, it wasn’t until the 2018 Australian All Schools in Cairns that Hugo came to the attention of athletics selectors. Hugo won bronze medals in the T20 discus and shot put events and in doing so started a series of events that were to take this amazing athlete on a course to becoming the 2019 INAS Global Games Champion.

With INAS introducing events for athletes with Down syndrome at the 2019 INAS Global Games, Sport Inclusion Australia and athletics team officials were on the lookout for potential eligible athletes. Hugo came to the attention of an Athletics Australia official who was verifying eligibility for the All Schools in Cairns, in checking Hugo’s eligibility with Sport Inclusion Australia team officials became aware that Hugo was an eligible II-2 athlete whose performances met the qualifying standards for the Games and so were on a mission to sign him up or at least make him and his family aware of the new pathway and opportunities that now exists for him and other athletes.

It took a bit of chasing, but with the support of Athletics SA team officials were able to meet with Hugo and his family in Adelaide and discuss the opportunities that now lay ahead.

Hugo and his family were keen to pursue this opportunity which required another trip to Sydney for the Australian Championships in April and then to Brisbane for the Games.

Hugo’s athletics performances at the Games saw him win the II-2 Discus with a throw of 22.40m, a personal best of over 1.5m, he also competed in the shot put where he took Silver with a distance of 7.58m, fourth in the Javelin with a throw of 17.81m and a fourth placing in the 100m in another personal best of 15.42s.

While Hugo’s athletics performances were amazing, it wasn’t just the competition that brought out the best in Hugo.

The INAS Global Games is a world class sporting competition that represents the peak of sporting achievement and is held every four years. The 2019 INAS Global Games saw over 850 athletes from 48 countries compete in a world class competitive, safe, secure, inclusive environment, in a celebration of cultural diversity where people with an intellectual impairment can achieve their highest level of excellence through sport. The Global Games aims to change attitudes, challenge perceptions and strengthen communities locally and globally.

“Being part of the Games has made an enormous difference to Hugo’s confidence and independence, staying with the team for the 8 days amongst peers where he was just another elite athlete and treated with respect was amazing,” said Louise Taheny (Hugo’s mother).

Hugo was quick to learn that being an elite athlete has its advantages and also it’s disadvantages. Having just won his Gold medal Hugo received a tap on the shoulder from the Australian Sport and Drug Agency official as he had been selected at random to undertake a drug test.

Hugo was born with Down syndrome, he also is officially blind, hearing impaired and has a major heart defect. With all of these challenges ahead of him staying independently with the team is also a significant step for Hugo’s family. However with the support of the team officials Hugo and his family were able to overcome these challenges and provide the supportive environment for Hugo to succeed on and off the track.

On returning to Point Turton the response from the local community has been amazing, they have been there for the journey, they helped Hugo get to the Games and they have shared in his achievements. He has spoken at various community groups such as Lions and Lioness’ club meetings.

Since the Games, Hugo has completed Year 12 at Yorketown Area School where he was awarded the Senior Sportsperson of the Year award for the second year. He is keen to continue his athletics and personal journey and with the support of his family and the community looks to continue to be a positive advocate for people who live with a disability within the community.

In January Hugo was acknowledged by the community as their “Young Citizen of the Year”.

Hugo may well tell you his highlights might be winning Gold, standing on the victory Dias with hand on heart and the National anthem being played in your honour, being interviewed by the media or sitting in the pilots seat on the flight home. But for his parents and family who are bursting with pride at his achievements it is also the personal growth the resilience, courage and commitment that Hugo has shown that are the highlights.

For Games organisers who set ambitious targets to change attitudes, challenge perceptions and strengthen communities locally and globally, it is athletes like Hugo who have helped them to achieve these goals.

Sport Inclusion Australia, Deaf Sports Australia and Blind Sports Australia continuing to work as one – extending the collaboration

The peak bodies for athletes with an intellectual impairment, deaf and hard of hearing and blind or visually impaired have reaffirmed their commitment to continue working collaboratively for the benefit of each organisation and the athletes they represent.

The three organisations Sport Inclusion Australia, Deaf Sports Australia and Blind Sports Australia came together formally under the Sport Australia MoveitAUS program in 2019.  Since this initial program the three organisations have continued to work collaboratively in an effort to maximise the provision of services, opportunities and programs to their respective cohorts, while at the same time exploring how to minimise duplication and work more cohesively to improve the overall services and to determine an efficient way to use Government funds.

As a result of the MoveitAUS program, Sport Inclusion Australia, Deaf Sports Australia and Blind Sports Australia signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which along with the Sport Australia funding agreement ended on 30 June 2020.

However due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic Sport Australia has extended the funding agreement until 30 June 2021.

Having successfully implemented the June 2019 Funding Agreement, the three organisations have agreed to  renew the MOU under the same terms and conditions but have also agreed to explore the benefits of collaboration generally between the parties beyond the projects which were developed as part of the initial June 2019 Funding Agreement.

A joint statement from all three organisations. “Our three organisations have been in operation for many years, each with vast experience in providing inclusive sporting opportunities and programs for our athletes.  The last 12 months has re-affirmed our belief that our three organisations share synergies and that working together we have an opportunity to have greater impact for our members. We all look forward to continuing the collaboration and opportunity to develop further collaborative models”

One of those collaborative models may be a new entity model designed to enhance the strengths and synergies of the organisations while at the same time maximising the delivery of programs and services.

The parties recognise the different roles each organisation plays and that by supporting each other’s role the chance of success is greater for all parties.

 

For further information please contact:

Robyn Smith
0418 979 459
Robyn.smith@siasport.org
Sport Inclusion Australia
Sportinclusionaustralia.org.au

Phil Harper
0434 603 497 (SMS only)
phil.harper@deafsports.org
Deaf Sport Australia
deafsports.org.au

Matthew Clayton
0409 979 907
matt@blindsportsaustralia.com.au 
Blind Sports Australia
blindsportsaustralia.com.au

Pioneer Athletes and Swimmers attend inaugural Virtus World Championships in Athletics and Swimming

On this day (2 July) in 1989, a small team of 8 swimmers and 14 athletes represented Australia at the inaugural Virtus World Championships in Athletics and Swimming in Harnosand, Sweden.  The Championships were represented by 19 countries from Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.  Australia finished 2nd on the medal tally behind host nation Sweden with 11 Gold, 7 silver and 9 Bronze medals, closely followed by Iceland.

In his opening speech at the Games, INAS-FMH Chairperson Fernando M Vicente stated. “The opportunity for success and its accolades are important to all persons and athletes with an intellectual disability should have the same right to feel good and compete according to normal rules, or as Marie Little says “the same rights as others”.  This includes obtaining self confidence, status, experiencing risks, learning rules and learning to take risks.”

The athletes were pioneers for todays athletes who now have the choice to compete in a wide range of sports and the opportunity to represent their country.

One of Sport Inclusion Australia’s strong philosophy’s is that “Sport owns Sport”.  These two teams were coordinated by Sport Inclusion Australia (formerly known as the Australian Sport and Recreation Association for People with an intellectual disability), with teams nominated by Swimming Inc. and the Australian Athletic Union.  It is pleasing to see that even in these early years this fundamental structure was in place.  Today we see many more sports providing opportunities for people with an intellectual impairment to both compete and also the opportunity to represent their country based on merit.

Formed in 1986 Sport Inclusion Australia has grown from these early beginnings and today represents over 4,800 athletes competing in a wide range of Winter and Summer sports.  Athletics and Swimming remain the dominant sports which along with Table Tennis offer Paralympic competition.

“This was the start of a long history in International competition, with Australia finishing on top of the medal table in most of the Multisport events, validating our long held belief that if NSO’s drive inclusion, then the standard of athletes performances rise accordingly” said Sport Inclusion Australia CEO Robyn Smith.

Australia has competed at all subsequent Virtus World Championships and Global Games in Athletics and Swimming.  In the last two years Australian athletes have competed in Virtus events in Athletics, Basketball, Cricket, Cycling, Equestrian, Futsal, Half Marathon, Rowing, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis and Swimming.  On the national stage athletes also have opportunities to compete in AFL (FIDA), Cross Country,  Indoor Cricket, Lawn Bowls, Skiing, Softball, Ten Pin bowling, Touch Football and Triathlon.

Last year in Brisbane Australia fielded a team of 162 athletes competing across 10 sports at the Virtus Global Games, the biggest and best event yet for elite athletes with an intellectual impairment with teams from 48 countries competing.  As Sweden did back in 1989, the host nation Australia dominated the 2019 Games finishing on top of the medal tally.

Today’s anniversary comes during a time when we are locked down and sport is not possible for many due to Covid-19, but this provides us with an opportunity to look back at our early beginnings and acknowledge the growth in opportunities and recognition for athletes with an intellectual impairment.

“We congratulate the pioneers of the past for setting the stage for the 100’s of athletes who have followed in their footsteps” said Helen Croxford President Sport Inclusion Australia.

So who were are our early pioneers, or as they referred to themselves as “the Wonders from Down Under”?

Athletics: Kaye Freeman (Qld), Jacinta Fields (Qld), Carla Nitz (Qld), Racquel Nugent (Qld), Anne Walsh OAM (ACT), Anton Flavel (WA), Wayne Baldwin (Qld), Warwick Edwards (WA), Robert Lippitt (Qld), Gerhard Little (Tas), Russell Nelligan (WA), Ken Penny (Qld), Russell Torrance (WA), Warren Rolfe (Qld), Phillip Lavell (Manager, WA), Jo Hogan (Head Coach , ACT), Sue Cosgrove (Asst Coach, Qld).

Swimming: Bridgit Bromhead (ACT), Linda Cox (Tas), Danny Meadowcroft (Qld), John Krushka (Tas), Peter Love (Qld), Phillip Wardale (Qld), Rene Hardenbol (WA), Tim Krahe (SA), Jill Gates (Manager, SA), George Brown (Head Coach , WA), Erin Reddaway (Asst Coach, SA).

Delegation: Marie T Little OAM (Team Leader, SA), Jan Sutherland (General Manager, SA) and Trish Ayres (Physio, TAS).

The Australian star of the Games was Western Australia’s Rene Hardenbol winning 3 Gold, 2 Silver and 5 Bronze medals.  Hardenbol won the 200m and 400m Freestyle and 200m backstroke events.  Tasmania’s John Krushka was our only other Gold medallist in the pool winning the 50 and 100m backstroke events.  Krushka collected another 3 Bronze medals as part of the Australia men’s relay teams.  Canberra’s sole representative in the pool Bridgit Bromhead was our only female medallist with a Silver in the women’s 100m backstroke.

Australia finished third in the swimming medal tally behind Sweden and Iceland.

On the track Queensland’s Kaye Freeman was our most successful athlete winning 3 Gold and one Silver medal.  Freeman winning Gold in the 200m, Javelin and the 4 x 100m relay.  Western Australia’s Anton Flavel was our leading male athlete winning the men’s Javelin and Discus and collecting a Bronze in the Long jump.  Other individual medallists were Racquel Nugent (Qld) Gold in the women’s 100m and 4 x 100m relay, Anne Walsh (ACT) Silver in the womens 1500m and Russell Torrance with a Bronze in the men’s 800m and 2 more Bronze medals from men’s relay events.

Australia finished on top of the Athletics medal tally ahead of Sweden and Scotland.

For many athletes this was the first time they had travelled overseas and represented Australia, for most it was a life changing experience building confidence, developing life skills and most importantly changing perceptions.  These pioneers were our first Australian Representatives.

The team were finalists in the 1989 Sport Australia Awards – Team of the Year Category.

On returning to Australia team Manager Jan Sutherland delivered a paper titled “An evaluation and analysis of the first World Championships in Athletics and Swimming for persons with mental handicap 2-6 July 1989 in Harnosand , Sweden – Considering the role of elite competition in the structure of sport – An Australian perspective.  In her paper Sutherland makes several references to the importance of this event for athletes with an intellectual disability.  “This was the “Flagship” that was necessary to show that persons with an intellectual disability were able to participate competently in sport and hence stimulating greater enthusiasm for participation at all levels. Sutherland wrote.

Perhaps the last comment should be from the parent of an athlete reflecting on the impact of an inclusive sport on her daughter.

“Athletics opened up doors for Kaye which we thought would always be closed, she was recognised for her ability not her disability” Shirley Freeman.

Koenig flies flag for ACT

He stands out in the ACT’s Ivor Burge team not just because he is one of the tallest player but also because he is the best and the ACT’s sole representative in the  Australian Boomerangs Basketball team. However for Canberra’s Justin Koenig it hasn’t always been that way.

Koenig recalls the encouragement from his friend Andrew Hoatson to try out for the ACT’s Ivor Burge Basketball team back in 2010  “That first ACT representative team was coached by Jim Bell,  I started on the bench which is what new players do” said Koenig referring to his first appearance for ACT at the Ivor Burge Basketball Championships.  Some 10 years later including 6 years as an Australian Boomerangs representative, Koenig is very thankful to Hoatson and Bell for encouraging him to take up the sport.

A keen sportsman, Koenig played aussie rules (100 games), tee-ball and cricket as a junior and now enjoys golf as well.  One of Justin’s junior sport highlights is achieving a hat trick in cricket.

Growing up in Canberra he attended Woden special school before completing his studies at Copeland College.  Koenig doesn’t have great memories at Copeland with bullying and some difficulties settling in to the mainstream school with less support, but he also sees it as a time that he grew more independence.

“Justin has always loved his sport, it has been an important part of his life and helped him to build his confidence and ability to interact socially with others.” Said Justin’s mother Jennifer Koenig.

Koenig’s first game for the ACT Ivor Burge team was in 2010 against Victoria Country, a close game lost by the ACT 60-68 but importantly a game that saw him playing alongside his friend Andrew Hoatson and scoring his first points.  In those early years there was another ACT player dominating the scoresheets and representing the Australian Boomerangs in Mark Dahlberg.  The following year ACT had it’s best ever performance at the Ivor Burge Championships reaching the grand final against Victoria, Koenig, Hoatson and Dahlberg all still there.

In 2014 Australian Boomerang’s head coach Simon Robinson approached Koenig at the completion of the Ivor Burge Basketball Championships with some great news.  “I remember Simon coming up to me at the Closing Ceremony and telling me I had made the Australian Boomerangs team, it was a great feeling and I was very excited to be selected in my first Australian team” said Koenig.

That year he trained with the Boomerangs and in 2015 made his debut against Japan, 2015 also saw Koenig travel to Ecuador with the Boomerangs for the 2015 INAS Global Games.  Australia made the Bronze medal playoff but were out run by the team from Portugal 55 to 69.  In 2017 Koenig travelled to Italy with the Australian Boomerangs team for the 2017 INAS Basketball World Championships.  Australia again made the playoff for the Bronze, but unlike 2 years earlier in Ecuador they dominated the game defeating Poland 88-52 to take the Bronze medal.

2018 saw a lot of change for Koenig with new coaches in both the ACT Ivor Burge and Australian Boomerangs teams.

Former Canberra Capital player Michelle Cosier started coaching Justin as coach of the ACT Ivor Burge team.  “He is very passionate about his basketball on and off the court and wants to be the best he can be.” said Cosier.  For Koenig that passion can sometimes leads to frustration when things don’t always go the way they should.   “As a perfectionist he is very tough on himself, we have been working on strategies on his mindset and his role as a leader in the ACT team.” Cosier said.

The Ivor Burge Championships were held in Terrigal in 2018 and Koenig wasted no time impressing his new coaches with some outstanding statistics across the court.  “He is an incredibly strong player in all assets of the game, in one game he had a quadruple double with 38 points, 33 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals” Cosier said.

With the Australian Boomerangs, Koenig is comfortable with his role and describes himself as an impact player “ I focus on defence, I get on do my job and get off” he said.  Boomerangs Head Coach Julia Walsh describes Justin as an impact player and one of the leaders within the team on and off the court.  “When the going gets tough Justin is the player that can turn the game around and the team can get caught up in his energy. He has matured as a player and as a leader. Justin has learnt to manage his emotions and to assist others when under stress. He has a great sense of humour and that is always valuable when you are living in each others pockets in the tournament bubble.” Said Walsh.

Away from his ACT and Boomerang team duties Koenig plays Div 2 with the Ginninderra Rats in the ACT Basketball competition.  “It is a high level of competition that provides Justin with the challenge to work hard and play at a higher level on a regular basis.” Said Cosier.

He has been lucky with injuries having rolled his ankle a couple of times, but for a short time in 2019 he thought his good luck had come to an end.

“It was one of our final training camps before the Global Games.   We were competing for places in the team and during a scrimmage my nose made contact with one of my team mates elbows, it was a mess, blood everywhere and we all thought I had broken it.” Koenig said.  A few hours in casualty and a few xrays revealed no break and Koenig’s dream for a home Global Games was still intact.

Koenig made the Australian Boomerangs team for the Brisbane Global Games where they played off for Gold against a strong Portugal team in front of a large home crowd.  Despite having defeated Portugal in the round robin stage, Portugal were again too strong for the Boomerangs winning 94 to 68 bringing back memories of their 2015 Bronze medal playoff.  Although disappointed the Boomerangs Silver medal equalled their best result of a Silver medal in the 1994 INAS Basketball World Championships in Greece.

Away from the Basketball court, Koenig works in the Emergency department at the Canberra Hospital, a job he has had for the past 7 years.    The job has provided Koenig with some stability and has been very supportive of his Basketball commitments allowing him time off for camps and tours.

Basketball ACT recognised Koenig’s performances and contribution to basketball as their 2015 Male Player of the Year and in 2018 ‘recognition of significant personal achievement bringing credit to Basketball and the ACT Basketball Community’.

Koenig is also very aware of those that have enabled him to do what he does best, his mum Jennifer, ACT coaches Jim Bell, Chloe Tugliach, Michelle Cosier and Boomerangs coaches Simon Robinson, Julia Walsh and Glen Jordan.

Still driven to be the best he can be and to play at a higher level, Koenig looks forward to more challenges ahead and hopefully one day helping the Boomerangs to that elusive Gold medal that has eluded them so far.