The Australian Paralympic Team’s new Captains for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games were informed of their appointment to the prestigious role by their 2018 predecessors in a heartfelt video call across three countries on two continents.
PyeongChang 2018 Co-Captains Mitchell Gourley and Joany Badenhorst surprised Para-alpine skiing dual Paralympic bronze medallist Melissa Perrine and world No.1 Para-snowboarder Ben Tudhope in a link-up that was later joined by Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin.
“It’s exciting because I’ve known both of you – Mel since I was in high school and Ben since he was about four years old – so I couldn’t think of two better teammates to pass on this honour to,” Perrine and Tudhope heard from Gourley, who was with the Para-alpine skiing group at their base in Austria and will compete in Beijing at his fourth Paralympics.
“Benny, I want you to know that you deserve every bit of this and we’re really proud of you. We joke about you being the youngest on the team but you’ve got an old head on a young set of shoulders, which is something you should be very proud of. I know it’s something that everybody in the team takes a lot of inspiration from and learns a lot from.
“Mel, I know you don’t always love the accolades and you like to hang in the background a bit, but you lead by example in this team and have done for a long time. The way you go about things is really well respected and you’re a great model of leadership.
“I want to make sure you both feel that you deserve this because you’re both great leaders in different ways but in equally impressive and equally important ways.”
Speaking from Sydney, Badenhorst added: “Benny, you’ve been through the most challenging and biggest growth period anyone your age has gone through and it’s absolutely amazing where you are now.
“Mel, you’re an absolute institution. You’re paving the way and this was a no-brainer. We are just so excited we get to share this news with you and be there to support you whichever way you need.”
Tudhope, who arrived from competing in Canada to his Para-snowboard training base in Finland the previous night, said to Gourley and Badenhorst: “You guys did an amazing job in Korea, so it’s great to take the baton. As still the youngest on the team, it’s just an amazing opportunity, to be a captain.
“Going into these Games I thought everything was going well, but this is just the icing on the cake. I’m just proud to be an Aussie and proud to be a Paralympian.”
Perrine, in Austria, said she was shocked by her appointment to the leadership role.
“I just hope we can live up to what you guys did,” she said. “It’s a massive honour. I never expected my career to go this high or this far, so this is insane. It’s a great team to be a part of and I’ve been a part of it for so many years.“
Perrine said she was proud to share the role with Tudhope, to which Tudhope replied: “You’ve inspired me from day one as well, Mel. Beijing will be challenging, as we all know, but I think we can lead the team really well.”
The captaincy roles were decided through a nomination process involving Paralympics Australia’s Athlete Commission and the 10 members of the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Team and were signed off by McLoughlin.
“I want to thank Joany and Mitch for doing such a stellar job at the PyeongChang Games and it’s so lovely to see you hand on the baton to our new co-captains,” the Chef de Mission said when she joined the call.
“The Games are nearly upon us and I’ve got no doubt that Mel and Ben will do a fabulous job as our Team Captains.”
The Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games start on March 4.
The Seven Network will deliver live coverage, highlights and behind-the-scenes content across its channels and 7plus app, as the Australian Winter Paralympic Team attempts to exceed its haul of one gold and three bronze medals from the PyeongChang 2018 Games.