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One year to go: Australia’s Paralympic athletes count down in blood, sweat and tears

Only 365 days remain before Australia’s Paralympic athletes take to the world stage at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, but as the excitement builds, each knows the year ahead will be a test of physical and mental endurance to ensure they earn their place on the podium at Rio.

With an Team of 170 athletes expected to represent Australia at next year’s Games, a mix of Paralympic greats and hopefuls have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of excellence to continue the nation’s proud history of Paralympic success.

For London 2012 Paralympic bronze medallist in cycling Alex Green, the year ahead will be the time to push herself to ensure she is at her peak when it matters most.

“It’s two to three sessions most days or more than 600 sessions in total,” Green said.

“Before September 7 next year, it will be thousands of kilometres on the track on the road where my body will be telling me to stop.”

And for Green, the year ahead will also be about the personal sacrifices made to achieve her dream of wearing green and gold and representing Australia with pride. A dream she believes she can achieve.

While Green will strive to train when her rivals are resting, Paralympic hopeful and javelin thrower Jayden Sawyer will be pushing his body further than it’s ever been, training for just one throw that will matter.

“It’s 780 training sessions over the next 12 months, or somewhere in excess of 2,500 throws, which will all boil down to one,” Sawyer said.

Spending all of his time on a javelin runway, the ACT-based thrower says he will do this with the belief that he is worthy of selection and contributing to Australia’s target of a top five finish on the medal tally.

“I believe I can do myself, my coach, my team and my family proud. I believe that I belong and I’m worthy of selection,” he said.

As a sporting team that helps shape community attitudes towards disability, the belief of Australia’s Paralympic athletes in their task ahead is important, and the success of the team relies upon it.

With a Paralympic gold medal already on her long list of accomplishments, vision impaired swimmer Prue Watt is preparing for another golden opportunity that is four years in the making. Before next year, she will have swum more kilometres than the distance from Sydney to Rio and back again.

“One year to go signifies 365 more times that my alarm will wake me up at 4am for training,” Watt said.

“100 laps per session, 700km per week. That takes true belief in myself and what I can achieve.”

Like Sawyer, boccia player Daniel Michel is devoting everyday to ensure he can make his Paralympic debut. But for Michael, the year ahead will also be about meeting his goal of becoming Australia’s first Paralympian in his sport since Sydney 2000.

“Just one year before I can achieve my ultimate goal of competing in the pinnacle of my sport,” Michel said.

“For me, it’s 260 training sessions and a total of 780 hours of aiming to hit the jack. It’s the repetition of drills and shots so I can get there and do my country proud.”

Behind Australia’s Paralympic athletes is the work of the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) and the unique and central role it plays in improving the lives of people with a disability through the power of sport and preparing Paralympic athletes for the best possible chance of success at a Paralympic Games. But as a registered charity, the APC also relies on the support of the Australian public to deliver the Team to a Games.

One year to go is the time for Australians to get behind, and get to know the Team as they enter the home stretch of the Paralympic Games cycle.

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