Ryley Batt will not only go down in history as one of the greatest wheelchair rugby players of all time, but also a formidable co-captain of the Australian Paralympic Team.
Paralympics Australia has today (26 November) named six-time Paralympian Danni Di Toro and four-time Paralympian Ryley Batt as co-captains of the 2020 Australian Paralympic Team.
Wheelchair racer and fellow NSW Institute of Sport athlete Kurt Fearnley retired from Australian representation last year and personally passed on the responsibility of the role to Batt at an emotional and unpublicized meeting. Di Toro will return to the role for a second consecutive Games.
The NSWIS athlete helped lead the Australian Steelers to their first Paralympic gold medal in 2012, and carved his name in history once again as a member of the first wheelchair rugby team to win consecutive Paralympic gold medals and a world title in a four-year period, when the Steelers won gold at the 2014 World Championships and 2016 Paralympics.
“It’s hard to put into words what it means to me to be named as co-captain” said Batt.
“To not only represent Australia at a Paralympic Games, but to captain, is something I never even dreamt of. It’s a proud, proud moment.
“Kurt [Fearnley] was actually the one who told me. It felt like a joke at the time – I didn’t even know that I was in the mix for co-captain, and I was genuinely shocked. Kurt is someone who I have always looked up to – both Danni and Kurt are. They are caring and kind, and genuinely have the back of every single person on the Australian Paralympic Team. I’ve always looked at them and felt proud that they’ve represented our country. So for me to step into that role, alongside Danni, is really humbling, but also an exciting opportunity.
“As captain of the Steelers, I try to lead by example. I put my heart and soul into everything to do with our sport, and I’m looking forward to having the privilege of doing that with the wider Paralympic Team.
“Danni and Kurt did it really well in Rio. They brought together the team, they brought together our Mob. And that feeling of family didn’t end in Rio either – it’s continued, and something I respect so much.
“Danni is happy and supportive and caring to the wider Paralympic family, and I want to be able to do that too.”
Ryley Batt and Danni Di Toro will use their wealth of experience to lead the Australian Team through the Tokyo 2020 Games campaign, and further enhance the platform built during the Rio campaign focused on connecting current athletes to the wider movement and its history.
“Australia has enjoyed a long history of success at the Paralympic Games, but as the Paralympic movement continues to grow – and the Games become more and more competitive – it has never been as important as it is now to foster a culture that supports success with a strong team spirit,” said 2020 Australian Paralympic Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin.
The 2020 Paralympic Games will be held in Tokyo, Japan, from 25 August – 6 September. Australia will be represented by approximately 180 athletes across 18 sports.