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Aussie Paralympic athletics squad named
By Crystal Ja
20:12 AEST Tue Jul 1 2008

Five-time Paralympians and debutants aged as young as 14 are among a powerful Australian athletics team for the Beijing Paralympics in September.

The 48-strong team was announced by the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) as some of the athletes enjoyed a nine-day training camp on the Gold Coast.

Traditionally Australia's strongest Paralympic sport, the athletics squad will be under fierce pressure to maintain its status as one of the best in the world.

In track and field, Australia is aiming to finish in the top two come September and will be looking to some of its more experienced members.

Victorians Jodi Willis-Roberts and Russell Short and Queenslander Darren Thrupp will all attend their sixth Paralympic Games, boasting 15 of the team's total 70 Games medals.

Nine-time gold medallist Tim Sullivan and triple gold medal winner Heath Francis are also part of the veterans list, with no intentions of slowing down.

"I've still got that desire to go through, Beijing will just be another amazing experience where I'm just hoping to get personal bests and hopefully come away with a few more medals," Francis told AAP.

Francis won three events at his first Paralympics at the 2000 Sydney Games when he was 18 and hopes to one day claim attendance at six Games like his friend Thrupp.

He said the close-knit athletics squad were capable of achieving much in Beijing.

"We know what we're capable of doing and that's the biggest expectation we have going through to the Games," he said.

Twenty-eight team members will attend their first Paralympics in Beijing, with 16-year old Tahlia Rotumah and Madison De Rozario, 14, the youngest athletes.

Fellow Paralympic debutants and current world record holders Evan O'Hanlon and Christine Wolf, feature as some of Australia's biggest gold medal hopes.

O'Hanlon will be the medal favourite in both the 100m and 200m, following his world records last year when he booted Sullivan off his perch as the fastest Australian cerebral palsy sprinter.

Although Wolf won silver in Athens four years ago, it will be her first Games representing Australia when she contests both the long jump and 100m sprint.

The German native is the current world record holder in long jump, much to her chagrin.

"I've always just wanted to run, that was always my discipline, and I always had high expectations, but it wasn't happening," she said.

"I started a bit of jumping on the side and I was more successful in that and now I realise that this is really my discipline - long jump - and I have to take it a little bit easier on the sprint."

The team has a long training schedule ahead of them, including a spell in Townsville where they will get acclimatised to the heat and humidity expected in the Chinese capital.

Australian team:-

Men - Damien Bowen (ACT), Matthew Cameron (QLD), Aaron Chatman (ACT), Richard Colman (VIC), Roy Daniell (ACT), Rodney Farr (SA), Kurt Fearnley (NSW), Heath Francis (ACT), Gerrard Gosens (QLD), Greg Hibberd (ACT), Hamish McDonald (ACT), Wade McMahon (ACT), Christopher Mullins (VIC), Richard Nicholson (ACT), Evan O'Hanlon (ACT), Paul Raison (QLD), Michael Roeger (SA), Brad Scott (ACT), Russell Short (VIC), Ian Speed (VIC), Tim Sullivan (VIC), Darren Thrupp (QLD), Stephen Wilson (QLD). Final men's slot to be confirmed.

Women - Angela Ballard (NSW), Carlee Beattie (QLD), Jennifer Bryce (ACT), Gemma Buchholz (QLD), Kelly Cartwright (VIC), Christie Dawes (NSW), Madison De Rozario (WA), Louise Ellery (ACT), Amanda Fraser (ACT), Jessica Gallagher (VIC), Courtney Harbeck (QLD), Madeline Hogan (VIC), Kirrilee McPherson (SA), Elizabeth McIntosh (VIC), Brydee Moore (VIC), Jemima Moore (VIC), Kathryn Parrish (SA), Katherine Proudfoot (NSW), Tahlia Rotumah (NSW), Charlotte Saville (VIC), Julie Smith (QLD), Noni Thompson (VIC), Jodi Willis-Roberts (VIC), Christine Wolf (ACT).


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