Sydney athletes selected for Athens

12 March 2004

Sydney University's wheelchair track star Angie Ballard and rower Kyeema Doyle have been selected to represent Australia at the 2004 Paralympic and Olympic Games in Athens.

Ballard, a commerce student and sports scholarship holder, will be hoping to improve on her performances at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics where she finished 4th in the 100m, 4th in the 800m, 5th in the 200m and 6th in the 400m wheelchair track events.

Doyle, 22, was selected in the women's eight who will start training in Australia before departing for Europe on 12 June in preparation for the Olympics. The Australians will compete at the Lucerne World Cup before entering a training camp for the Games, which start on 13 August.

Doyle won gold medals as a member of the Australian under-23 pair at the 2002 World Championships in Genoa, and the four at the 2003 World Cup in Lucerne.

Ballard, 21, was named in a squad of 38 athletes following the recent National Championships in Sydney. She set her sights on Athens after winning the 100m track event at the 2002 World Championships in France – her first individual medal on the international stage.

Photograph of athlete Angie Ballard
Photograph of athlete Angie Ballard

Angie Ballard will represent Australia at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens

Born in Canberra, Ballard lived in Bungendore, 30km from the capital. At the age of seven she was involved in a car accident and spent the next three months in hospital. Her back and spinal chord were broken, she had injured her diaphragm and lost her right kidney.

She moved to Sydney in 2001 to study and train at the University of Sydney. "I'm in Economics II but I'm hoping to transfer to Commerce so I can major in other subjects," she said.

Wheelchair athletes are graded in four categories – T51, T52, T53 and T54 – the lower the number the more extensive the disability. Ballard competes as a T53. "T54 athletes have more abdominal muscles and are able to lift up in the chair to push forward," she said. "Once we get going there's not a lot of difference in the times. Over 100m the T54s are .02sec faster. In fact we race together in the 1500m."

After becoming "serious" about the sport in 1997, Ballard forced her way into the Australian team for the 1998 world championships in Birmingham, where her results earned her a scholarship at the AIS.

"I'm concentrating on sprinting now and competing in the 100m and 200m, although I still do the 400m," she said. "Because I'm light I have a fast start, which is to my advantage, but I can't get up speed as quickly as some. I push the chair six days a week and do hill work in Centennial Park and then a recovery push." Training also includes two track sessions a week, three gymnasium sessions and a lot of weight sessions.

The Paralympic Games are the pinnacle event for athletes with a disability, and the goal for the Australian team is to maintain the status gained at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics, where they outperformed every other nation in winning 66 medals.