When the first cases of COVID-19 were reported on Australian shores, Brisbane based wheelchair rugby player Mick Ozanne was training hard in preparation for the 2020 Paralympic Games, due to take place in Tokyo in August.
Mick, who is a quadriplegic following a spinal cord injury, was set to make his Paralympic debut at the games.
With concerns for public safety over the virus, the tournament was postponed until 2021.
“I just missed out on the team at the Paralympics in 2016 so this was going to be my first one. I was really disappointed, but at the same time I am just glad they haven’t been cancelled altogether.”
Mick and his wheelchair rugby teammates, unable to train together due to social distancing laws, have since taken their training to their homes and onto the streets.
“With the Paralympics being postponed, we are basically at home doing all we can to maintain our fitness, and hopefully we can get a couple of tournaments in at the end of the year.
“We normally do five days a week, two gym sessions and three court sessions. Now those court sessions have turned into hand crank sessions on a stationary table, or getting in our rugby chairs and going for a push.”
Mick’s home training regime has been simplified recently by the arrival of a purpose built table on which to use his hand crank, a piece of equipment used to train the upper body, thanks to funding from National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
“Through the NDIS I got a table to use the hand crank with, where previously I had it set up on the kitchen table. This wasn’t really a convenient place to set it up three times a week when kids are trying to eat their breakfast. Now I have a specialist physio table for it which works out really well.”
Mick, who made his debut for Australia’s national wheelchair ruby team ‘The Steelers’ in 2013, has also been able to stay connected with his team mates online.
“At least one of our hand crank sessions a week is over Zoom with a couple of athletes and one of our trainers on the call. We also do one gym session a week where our trainer and a couple of athletes Zoom in so we can catch up and have a chat and aren’t training on our own all the time.
“Having other people there training with you gives you the motivation to train a little bit harder than you maybe would if you were just sitting alone trying to get through it.”
Mick has also been able to utilise online video platforms to have NDIS car modification assessments with an occupational therapist.
“It has been good to still be able to access my services. Luckily, I can still get my support workers to come in. I have a support worker to help me get set up to train, or to get into my rugby chair to have a push.”
With his eyes set firmly on making his first Paralympic appearance, Mick said he looks forward to making his contribution when the tournament commences.
“Within the sport there are classifications ranging from 0.5 to 3.5, which refers to the level of function an athlete has.
“I am a 0.5, which means I am a low pointer. I have more of a defensive, blocking role while the medium and high pointers are more likely to carry the ball and score, getting all the glory while we make sure they can do that by blocking all other players out.”
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