Shepparton News

Bamawm boy’s bronzed

PEARSE SHOWS TRUE METTLE AS HE OVERCOMES ARDUOUS 18 MONTHS TO WIN MEDAL AT GAMES

- By Josh Huntly

Col Pearse is the pride of Bamawm after the Australian Paralympia­n claimed the bronze medal in the 100m butterf ly at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

The 18-year old medalled in his maiden Paralympic final on Tuesday night and set a new Australian record in the men’s butterf ly, touching the wall with a time of 57.66.

Pearse overcame a strong field and pins and needles pre-race, coming home strong in the final 50m of the event to confirm his status as an Australian Paralympic medal-winner.

It took a world record swim from Ukraine’s Krypak Maksym (gold medal) and Italy’s Raimondi Stefano (silver medal) to keep the young Australian at bay.

The event’s post-script was as exceptiona­l as the race itself.

Legendary Paralympia­n Kurt Fearnley described Pearse’s swim as one of the most courageous he’s seen, and in an emotional postrace address the newlyanoin­ted bronze medallist spoke of his challengin­g 18-month journey defying lockdowns and a disrupted training schedule to reach the Tokyo Games.

“It’s been a hard 18 months,” Pearse said as he tried to fight back tears.

“It just means the world to me to finally get up on the podium.

“Eighteen months ago, I didn’t think this was possible and for that to come true … I can barely put words together.”

Pearse defied a mixture of nerves and sheer adrenaline to leap from half-a-body length back in fourth spot in the first 50m, to third in an exhilarati­ng final dash.

For the first 35m of the biggest race of his life, he was in the middle of an out of body experience.

“In the marshallin­g room I just had this uncontroll­able shake,” the bronze medallist said.

“Lining up I started getting pins and needles in my hands.

“I couldn’t actually feel them, I had to pour water on them to get the feeling back — and I still couldn’t.

“It was my first final in the Paralympic Games and my main event — it was a lot of pressure.

“For the first 35m, I didn’t actually feel like I was swimming. I just had so much adrenaline going through my body.”

The bronze medal swim capped a remarkable day for the emerging — and popular — member of Australian swimming.

Earlier in the heats, Pearse qualified third for the final with a time of 58.23.

It took seven days since the Games’ opening ceremony for him to finally hit the pool and a “very nervous” Pearse said after the heat he was just happy to finally represent his country.

“The nerves were real,” Pearse said.

“It was my first (internatio­nal) swim in two years.

“It’s pretty special. Not many people get the opportunit­y to represent their country at the internatio­nal level.

“For me, it’s always been my childhood dream to be in the green and gold and for that to be true now is amazing.”

The Pearse family cheered on from the farm at Bamawm as Pearse swam for a medal, and proud mother Teena acknowledg­ed it was a nerve-racking watch from halfway across the world.

“(We’re) beyond excited,” she said before the final.

“I don’t do very well when I’m not there to watch him race. I’m much better when I’m there.”

Behind the champion swimmer is a young man who has been on an exceptiona­l journey — still only a student juggling Paralympic ambition with finishing Year 12.

“He’s had a pretty big, emotional roller-coaster the last 12 months,” Teena said.

“Juggling the pandemic in an Olympic year, in Year 12 — I think he’s done great.

“It’s just been about talking to the right people, making sure we fix problems before they become too big.

“Year 12 is already one of the hardest things you can do. By making Year 12 in an Olympic year, I don’t think he’ll do anything this hard in his life again.

“It’s just so full-on. I’m speechless of what he can physically manage time-wise. It’s amazing to see what he can do.”

It’s been a particular­ly demanding schedule to manage, between studies and training for Tokyo.

“He leaves most days at about 5am and gets home at about 7pm. Then he rinses and repeats the next day,” Teena said.

Pearse lost his right foot in a lawnmower incident when he was two years old.

At 14, he moved to Melbourne to pursue his dream of qualifying for the Australian Paralympic team.

The challenges have come thick and fast throughout the lead-up to the Tokyo Paralympic­s, mainly owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When lockdown first struck in Victoria, a makeshift pool was assembled in the dam on the dairy farm at Bamawm for Pearse to swim in while pools were shut and training came to a stand-still.

The initiative made waves for its ingenuity.

“Initially, Mum was just making a joke about turning the dam into the ‘Pearse Aquatic Centre’,’’ Pearse said after the final.

“Once we went into lockdown it wasn’t really much of a joke anymore.

“Looking back over the last 18 months training in a dairy dam, I never thought I’d be here.

“Going through a drought, you still have to milk the cows. In a hard 18 months, you still have to train. It’s been a lot of resilience and a lot of hard work.”

Pearse’s performanc­e is an exclamatio­n point on a remarkable journey, but his Paralympic campaign is far from over.

Pearse was scheduled to compete in the backstroke last night and the individual medley today respective­ly.

 ?? Picture: Paralympic­s Australia ?? What a moment: Col Pearse claimed the bronze medal in the 100m butterfly S10 final on Tuesday night.
Picture: Paralympic­s Australia What a moment: Col Pearse claimed the bronze medal in the 100m butterfly S10 final on Tuesday night.

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