The Paralympic Games kick off in Tokyo tonight (August 24th) and for local woman Hannah Dodd it will be a second opportunity to represent Australia on the world sporting arena.
The 29-year-old from Arcadia, is a proud member of The Gliders, the Australian Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team which plays its first Group A match tomorrow (August 25th) against host nation Japan.
At the 2012 London Paralympics Dodd represented Australia as the Grade 4 para-equestrian rider and came just outside the top 10.
Phyllis Dodd says the youngest of her three children, was born with sacral agenesis (similar to spina bifida) as well as other medical conditions and underwent numerous operations as a tiny child.
“She was in a lot of pain and was so miserable but one of her brothers put her in front of him on a horse and she just started giggling…she loved it, she was only about 18 months old,” said Phyllis.
From then on Hannah would ride as a passenger with her big brothers Phillip and David before her mother taught her to ride. She joined Pony Club at 4 years old and competed against her able-bodied friends before being classified in Para-equestrian at the minimum age of 12. By the age of 13 Hannah was competing at an elite level and was the youngest rider on the Australian Team at London in 2012.
It was at the London Paralympics that her parents, Phyllis and Brian met Jerry Hewson, a former wheelchair basketball coach, who suggested Hannah give it a go.
She started playing local competitions in 2012 and by 2013 had progressed to the national league. By 2014 she was part of the Gliders extended squad and in 2015 helped the Australian team win silver at the U25s World Championships.
She has enjoyed playing with the Sydney University Flames team in the Women’s competition and the Wollongong RollerHawks in the men’s competition.
Phyllis Dodd said: “Both teams and their respective coaches have greatly assisted and supported Hannah in her endeavours to understand the game and improve her playing. Last season The women Sydney Flames were National Champions and the Men’s Wollongong Roller Hawks won back to back National Champions. “
Hannah is one of only two Paralympic veterans in the Gliders even though her experience is in another discipline. Ten of the Gliders team are newbies.
While Hannah normally trains six days a week she has graduated with two degrees and is a qualified orthotist/prosthetist and is a public speaker for Wheelchair Sports NSW. Her job hunting has been on hold in the lead-up to the Tokyo Games.
The Australian Paralympic Team is made up of 179 athletes competing across 18 sports. Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin said the team was a source of “enormous pride” for all Australians.
“They embody the great strength and diversity of our communities and serve as a beacon for the continued advancement towards a fairer and more inclusive society.
“To qualify for an Australian Paralympic Team is an outstanding achievement. Yet, this time, it has required a unique level of resilience and determination.
“Through unprecedented obstacles, including the one-year Games postponement, as well as travel restrictions and lockdowns which severely impacted qualification pathways, training camps and international competition, our Para-athletes adapted, innovated and forged ahead in pursuit of their goals.”
Catch all the action from Tokyo on Channel 7.