The opportunity to compete for your country on the world stage is out of reach for most people, but that’s not the case for Russell Short (Vic) and Angela Ballard (NSW).
Set to make history as the most prolific ever male and female starters for Team Australia at the 2017 World Para-Athletics Championships in London (GBR), the impressive duo will battle it out in national colours for an eighth and seventh time respectively.
Short has competed in the F12/13 shot put for athletes with a visual impairment at every instalment of the World Para-Athletics Championships since their inception in 1994, winning a remarkable six medals, including two gold.
He joked at Melbourne Airport moments prior to his departure that he was supposed to give it away after Sydney 2000, yet 17 years later he finds himself Britain-bound for one more start in the throwers’ circle.
“I did then and still just love throwing. I love the physical side of it, too. The training keeps me fit and at 48 it’s nice to still be nimble,” Short said.
“I’ve always surrounded myself with great blokes and to see a couple of them debut here is very exciting. That’s part of the reason I keep coming back. I get the chance to throw with the next generation of athletes and it's fantastic to see the sport in such a good place.
“I had a good Paralympics here in 2012, medalling in the shot put. It’s a good circle and you know that the environment will be great. I think I can improve on what I did in Doha a couple of years back, I had some personal issues impacting me then, and to throw further here would make me proud given that my age keeps going up, too.”
Ballard first competed at the IPC Athletics World Championships as a 16-year-old in 1998, joining a 71-strong Team Australia in Birmingham (GBR) as preparations continued for a home Paralympic Games two years later.
Her results then were as outstanding as they continue to be, with the young wheelchair racer winning gold in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays and top-eight performances in the 100m, 200m and 800m.
“Birmingham was huge. It was my first time overseas, the first time that I raced at an international meet. I was excited but scared all the time. I don’t remember the racing, but I remember knowing that there was plenty to learn and get better at,” Ballard said.
“The sport has progressed so much since then. The professionalism that the Australian team brings is impressive, the way we approach international competition has completely changed. The passion was always there but the methods behind it make it easier to be an athlete nowadays, focusing on performance.”
In 2017, Ballard, who is a paraplegic after a car accident at the age of 7, will take to the start line as a 35-year-old with the defence of her world 200m and 400m titles in her sights.
“My aspirations since Rio have changed a little bit. I’ve adjusted my program and some of those things are settling in. I’m confident with where I’m at, but with change you never really know how things are going to go, so I just want to get out there, put down some good performances and hopefully the results come,” Ballard added.
“The wheelchair team is looking really good. We were all in Switzerland six weeks ago, there were plenty of PBs and we’ve settled in well in London. The team is going to do very well. It’s fun to be around.”
Team Australia continues to prepare for the World Para-Athletics Championships in London (GBR) ahead of competition starting on Friday 14 July.
Fact, Stats & Other Numbers - #TeamAUS and #London2017
1994 The year the first World Para-Athletics Championships, then known as the IPC Athletics World Championships, were held in Berlin (GER).
213 The number of medal events to be contested at the London 2017 World Para-Athletics Championships
96 The number of competing nations at the Doha 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships. This number is expected to exceed 100 at London 2017, with 1300 athletes to battle it out on the field of play.
69 The number of world records broken in athletics at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
62 The number of top-eight performances achieved when Team Australia last competed at the World Para-Athletics Championships in 2015. The team placed 9th overall on the medal tally.
37 The size of Team Australia. To download the Team Australia Media Guide, please click here.
26 The number of medals won by the Australian athletics section at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, including three gold, nine silver and 14 bronze.
16 The age of Isis Holt (Vic), an athlete with cerebral palsy who is both the youngest member of Team Australia and a two-time Paralympic medallist at Rio 2016.
10 The number of competition days. To view the complete timetable, please click here.
8 The number of times Russell Short (Vic) has competed at the World Para-Athletics Championships. He has taken to the throwers’ circle at every championship since their inception in 1994.
7 The number of times Angela Ballard (NSW) has competed at the World Para-Athletics Championships and the most of any woman. She has won ten medals, and is on track to match the 13 won by her former coach Louise Sauvage.
7 The number of gold medals won by Evan O’Hanlon at the World Para-Athletics Championships. He will start in the T38 100m for athletes with cerebral palsy
5 The number of world champions returning to defend their crown for Team Australia. The gold medallists from Doha 2015 are Angela Ballard (NSW, T53 200m, 400m), Todd Hodgetts (Tas, T20 shot put), Scott Reardon (ACT, T42 100m), Madison de Rozario (WA, T53 800m) and Isis Holt (Vic, T35 100m, 200m).
4 The number of debutants on Team Australia. Those donning the green and gold for the first time are throwers Cameron Crombie (ACT, F38 shot put, javelin), Martin Jackson (Vic, F38 shot put), Daniel Kirk (SA, F44 javelin) and Sarah Edmiston (WA, F44 shot put, discus).
3 The number of Rio 2016 Paralympic champions set to compete for Team Australia. Those that won gold last year are Brayden Davidson (SA, T36 long jump), Scott Reardon (ACT, T42 100m) and James Turner (NSW, T36 800m).
1 London 2017 marks the first time that the World Para-Athletics Championships and IAAF World Championships will be held consecutively at the same venue, following the lead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.