Earlier today, 2016 Australian Paralympic Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin announed that Daniela Di Toro and Kurt Fearnley had been named captains of Australia’s 2016 Paralympic team. Both Di Toro and Fearnley are multiple Paralympic Games competitors, with Di Toro having won a silver and a bronze medal in wheelchair tennis in her Paralympic career while Fearnley has amassed three gold, six silver and two bronze Paralympic medals in athletics. Following London, Di Toro retired from wheelchair tennis and is returning to the Paralympic Games in Rio as a table tennis player.
Kate McLoughlin was quoted by the Australian Paralympic Committee in the announcement decision as saying, “Australia has a proud history of success at the Paralympic Games and has competed at every Games since the first in Rome in 1960, but leading into what will be the most competitive Games in history, it is important that we create a culture that supports success with a strong team spirit.
“It is without question that Kurt and Daniela’s extensive experience and natural leadership skills will not only help in developing a vision for the Team, but in creating a legacy for future Paralympic Teams.
“Together, they will be the bridge between the individual greatness of our athletes and their connection to the wider Australian team. And as leaders, I have immense confidence in both Danni and Kurt to build a strong sense of identity among the Team as we all strive for a common goal.
“I am delighted to appoint Daniela and Kurt to his prestigious role, and I know they will provide so much value to their team mates by drawing upon their own experiences, sharing the highs and lows of their journeys, and building the values and foundations of our Team well before the Games so that when the Team arrives in Rio, athletes can focus on what they need to do to succeed, knowing there is a support network behind them.”
With Paralympic qualifying in full swing, Australia has already qualified a large number of teams and athletes for the Games. Jonathon Milne earned Australia a berth at the Rio Games in archery based on his performance at the 2015 World Archery Para Championships. three boats qualified: Susan Seipel, Amanda Reynolds and Curtis McGrath put up impressive performances at the 2015 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships to get Australia three spots in para-canoe. Bill Chaffey and Katie Kelly represented Australia at the 2015 ITU World Championship, and earned their country two spots in the para-triathlon. Based on performances at the 2014 Disabled Sailing World Championships, Australia qualified boats in all three sailing classes in what is scheduled to beat the sport’s last appearance at the Paralympic Games. Jason Maroney and Ashley Adams grabbed two shooting spots for Australia at the 2014 IPC Shooting World Championships in Suhl. At the 2015 IPC IPC Shooting World Cup in Osijek, Croatia, three more Australians picked up Rio berths including Elizabeth Kosmala, Natalie Smith and Luke Cain. In the third opportunity for shooters to qualify for Rio at the home hosted 2015 IPC IPC Shooting World Cup in Sydney, Bradley Mark became the most recent Australian shooter to qualify for Rio. The Australia men’s national wheelchair basketball team and the Australia national wheelchair rugby team also earned Rio berths. Qualifying for a number of sports, including athletics and swimming, is still underway.