Leaping to the Paralympics in Rio

Sarah Walsh will be competing in the long jump event at the Rio Paralympics on 8 September.

Sarah Walsh will be competing in the long jump event at the Rio Paralympics on 9 September.

Long-jumper Sarah Walsh from St John Bosco College Engadine has been selected in the Australian Paralympic team to compete at Rio in September.

The 18-year-old student who is completing Year 12 over two years under the Pathways program, jumped the qualifying distance less than a month before the team was announced.

“I had to do a massive PB to secure a spot,” says Sarah, who was born with a condition called Fibular Hemimelia with only one bone below her knee and a small foot.

When she was 17 months old the decision was made to amputate and since then she has worn a prosthetic leg.

At nine she joined Little Athletics competing in every event she could. Less than two years later she was wearing a carbon fibre blade which is much better at absorbing the shocks of the athletic track and the long jump pit.

Being selected in the Paralympic team is something she has been working towards since she took up athletics in Year 3.

“When I was nine I wanted to go to the Paralympics so it was pretty exciting to finally achieve my goal.”

Sarah also competes in the 100-metre sprint but at Rio she will be concentrating on the long jump.

“I love being out there and competing in the long jump,” she says. “You get six attempts and every jump is a new start to improve on your previous jump.”

If I had two legs I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to compete on the world stage and represent my country. It has opened a whole new world to me.

– Sarah Walsh

Sarah will have plenty of support at Rio with her parents and two younger sisters attending as well as her grandmother, aunty and cousins from Ireland. The St John Bosco community will also be cheering her on.

Sports Coordinator, Grant Kennedy, said the dedication Sarah has shown over the years is simply awe-inspiring.

“The hours of training she has put in, and on top of that being able to juggle school and senior studies is something Sarah can be proud of,” Mr Kennedy said.

“Her sportsmanship on and off the track is a lesson for any athlete and throughout her time at St John Bosco College, Sarah has been involved in countless amounts of community work helping and encouraging other athletes with a disability.”

For Sarah, being involved in athletics has changed her life: “If I had two legs I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to compete on the world stage and represent my country. It has opened a whole new world to me.”

Rio update: Sarah achieved her goal in the long jump event at Rio, equalling her sixth-place at last year’s world championships in Doha.  A great achievement for one of the youngest competitors, who now has her sights set on the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020 where she hopes to medal. In the meantime, her next goal is to return to Australia to sit for some of her HSC exams.  Good luck Sarah!

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