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The Sureway Wollongong Roller Hawks’ Paralympic hopefuls are relieved to hear the 2020 games have been postponed in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

After months of uncertainty, the International Olympics Committee on Tuesday announced that the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics were postponed with a plan to hold them in 2021. The announcement follows weeks of deliberating and publicly stating it was business as usual.



The news also comes after Roller Hawks' captain Brett Stibners had to make a dash with his family back to Australia after moving to Spain last year to prepare for the Paralympics.


“We were going to wait out the coronavirus hoping it would pass quickly. We had been in lockdown for one week by then. One night I got several messages from people back in Australia asking when I’m coming home. I thought that was strange so I looked up the news and saw that it was getting pretty bad back here.” says Stibners.


“This was 1:30 in the morning on Tuesday so I woke my wife up and said we need to go home. She jumped into action, emailing the travel agent back here and by Wednesday we had tickets booked home for Sunday.” 


“We woke up Thursday morning and the travel agent called and advised us to not wait till Sunday because the airports could be closed before then. So we went to Madrid airport first thing Friday morning hoping to change our tickets for that day. We ended up getting a flight to Gatwick London that night and staying in an airport hotel. The following day Bec went to the airport to try and change our tickets and Emirates were kind enough to change them and so we were on our way home that afternoon.” 


“Spain closed all land, sea and air borders on Tuesday to all non-residents. So we are happy we left when we did.”


Speaking from Hawks Nest while in isolation, Stibners says he is disappointed but understanding of the situation.


“I moved my whole family overseas to prepare for the Paralympics but I understand the decision to postpone them. Now I will scale training right back and then start to pick training back up at the end of the year.”


Meanwhile low pointer Hannah Dodd is taking all precautions to protect against the spread of the virus opting to stay at home with partner and fellow wheelchair basketballer, Steve Elliott.


“Steve and I are both immune compromised so we’re having to be super careful. We’re going into full isolation on the weekend as cases here keep going up”


That hasn’t stopped the pair from staying fit, utilising their home gym to stay active.


“We’re lucky that we have a pretty well stocked home gym so while it’s not perfect it’ll keep us ticking over.”


Tokyo represents Dodds’ opportunity to be a dual sport Paralympian after representing Australia at the London 2012 games in equestrian. Dodds switched to wheelchair basketball following the games and after being part of the program that ultimately missed out on Rio in 2016, she was keen to help the side make amends in Japan.

“Obviously it’s very disappointing to have to put everything on hold for another twelve months but there really wasn’t any other option given the current state of the world.” 


“It is nice to finally have a decision rather than hanging in limbo still trying to train at an elite level with all the limitations and restrictions.” 


“There are bigger things than sport at the moment. The main thing is trying to slow down the curve of the virus and keep people healthy. 


While Dodds and Stibners have already been to the Paralympics, for Luke Pople it’s the delay of a dream he’s been working towards since first entering the Australian Rollers program 12 years ago. After helping Australia qualify at the 2019 Asia Oceania Championships, Tokyo 2020 was set to be his first ever Paralympic Games.


“Obviously very disappointed, but postponed is a whole lot better than cancelled.” says Pople.


“I started in the program around 2008 and obviously going to the Paralympics to represent your country is always in your sights.”


The decision by the IOC ends weeks of uncertainty as athletes from around the world are forced into shutdown to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus. The Roller Hawks chose to suspend training on March 17 leaving players to train at home.


“With all the stadiums and courts and gyms closed down, I’ve been doing home gym programs with free weights and therabands.”


Making the social distancing easier for Pople has been being able to continue working as a graphic designer from home.


“I’ve been working from home already so in that sense it hasn’t been too much of a shock.”