Written by: Danielle Balales, Paralympic Australia
Hearts were pounding at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre as Grant ‘Scooter’ Patterson, Col Pearse and Jasmine Greenwood all seized their moment to stand on the coveted Paralympic podium on night seven at the pool.
Kick starting the Aussies run of medals was dual Paralympian and lovable larrikin of the Dolphins swim team, Grant ‘Scooter’ Patterson. The 32-year-old from Central Cairns scooped his maiden Paralympic silver medal in the Men’s 50m Breaststroke (SB2).
In front of a large contingent of teammates sitting in the stands proudly donning the green and gold, Patterson never gave up as he powered through the water in lane five. Swimming against the favourite in lane four – the 2019 World Para Champion, Mexico’s Arnulfo Castorena – it was always going to be a tight clash for second and third. In the end Patterson’s hard work and training paid off, touching the wall for silver in 1:01.79. The medal marks his second of the Games after securing a bronze in the Men’s 150m Individual Medley (SM3).
Speaking after the race ‘Scooter’ said this justifies the long hours in the pool, the hard work at the gym and all the sacrifices he has made the past five years.
“It means a lot. I’ve said before that winning a Paralympic medal has been 13 years in in the making and now I can walk away with two, a bronze and a silver, so I’m pretty happy with that,” he said.
“I’m feeling relieved like a weight is off my shoulders, and I need to give a big thanks to my coach Herbie and my trainer and my mum and dad. To bring something back from the Games is very special, I owe a lot to my support crew.”
Scooter will be back in action later in the week with two more events to race, the 50m and 200m free (S3).
After an incredibly tough 18 months, Victorian year 12 student Col Pearse was overcome with emotion when he realised he had smashed the Australian Record and his personal best to become a Paralympic bronze medallist in the Men’s 100m Butterfly (S10). With Victoria placed in and out of lockdowns, Pearse trained in the dam on his diary farm for months in order to keep his dreams alive and like Scooter, had sacrificed so much to represent his country.
In an epic race which saw the world record broken by the winner, Pearse came home strong to post 57.66 and snare the final place on the podium.
Barely able to process what happened, the World Para Champs bronze medallist couldn’t contain his tears as he spoke after the race.
“It just means the world to me…to finally get on the podium. Eighteen months ago, I didn't think this is possible. And so for that to come, I think…I can't put words together right now, I’m hurting and so emotional,” Pearse said.
“At the age of 14 I moved away from home to make the Australian Paralympic Team and then obviously the last 18 months it’s been lockdown after lockdown and I haven’t had the same training as some of the others so it’s just been really hard.
“Last year when Covid hit we all went into lockdown and mum made a joke about the dairy dam and really once lockdown really hit it wasn’t a joke anymore and we hay string and bottles to make lane ropes and made it into a pool, so I was training in the dairy dam…I just never thought I’d be here.”
Unlike her teammates today, 16-year-old Bay and Basin swimmer Jasmine Greenwood didn’t get the opportunity to swim a heat, with her Women’s 100m Butterfly (S10) event heading straight into a final. As the tension built throughout the day, Greenwood remained composed and headed into the race feeling calm but nervous at the same time. After diving in and turning first at the wall – something the young butteflier likes to do – Greenwood went stroke for stroke with her USA counterpart Mikaela Jenkins in the very next lane. Flying down the middle of the pool it was anyone’s race, but in the end, Greenwood hit the wall in 1:07.80 to secure her first Paralympic silver medal.
Catching her breath post-race, Greenwood said she just wanted to make her family proud.
“I think they'll be really proud of me and that's all I really wanted was to make my family and coach proud. I hope he's (my coach) is smiling as much as I am. I bet he is. We've been through a lot and resilience is a really big thing for me,” Greenwood said.
“Before the race, I was really nervous. I couldn’t sleep, my heart was pounding. Like our bus was late, a couple of things happening, I was freaking out, that race went really quickly and I’m so relieved and really proud.
“It was so close. But I mean, what a great race. We didn't get to do the heat. So considering all the circumstances, we all did well. It was so close, and I couldn't have done much better than that. It was my best effort.”
After backing up from his part in the Australian’s world-record-breaking Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay (34 points) win last night, Ben Popham left nothing in the tank when he lined up in the Men’s 400m Freestyle (S8). Fighting it out until the very end, Popham placed eighth overall in a time of 4:49.32.
Dual Paralympian Braedan Jason had a tough battle in the Men’s 100m Freestyle (S12), with the five middle lanes all charging to the wall and ultimately touching within 1.09 seconds of each other. The USC Spartan athlete posted a time of 53.78 to see him place fifth overall.
In the Women’s 200m Individual Medley (SM14) Australia had two competitors with Paige Leonhardt and Ruby Storm swimming from lanes six and eight, respectively. Leonhardt – who already has a silver in the 100m butterfly – clocked 2:32.69 to finish sixth overall, while Storm, bettered the personal best she set in the heats, posting 3:36.58 to finish seventh. Leonhardt has now finished her Tokyo campaign, while Storm, who also has a silver and bronze medal, looks ahead to the Women’s 100m Backstroke (S14) on Thursday.
Five-time Paralympian Matt Levy finished his Tokyo campaign strongly, placing fifth with a time of 28.39 – close to his personal best – in the Men’s 50m Freestyle (S7). Levy collected an individual bronze in the Men’s 100m Breaststroke (SB6) and a gold as part of the Men’s world-record breaking 4x100m Freestyle Relay (34 points).
A stacked field of competitors took to the blocks in the Women’s 100m Freestyle (S9), including Ellie Cole, Ashleigh McConnell and Emily Beecroft who pulled on the green and gold for the Aussies. Putting their talents on display the trio placed fifth, sixth and eighth with Cole touching in a season best time of 1:03.49, McConnell 1:03.81 and Beecroft 1:04.47.
Australia’s medal tally in the pool now stands at 24 including five gold, eight silver and eleven bronze.
Action from the Tokyo Aquatics Centre kicks off again tomorrow morning with heats starting from 10am AEST.