Wheelchair racer Rheed McCracken is back chasing the podium after being selected for the 2020 Australian Paralympics team.
Newcastle-based McCracken, born and bred in Bundaberg, is one of the first to be announced for the Australian Paralympic team and will compete at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics in the 100-metre T34 wheelchair.
The 23-year-old has previously claimed four Paralympic medals at London 2012 and Rio 2016, and for the past few years was gearing up for a tilt at a gold in Tokyo.
For Rheed this is the first time he’s been chosen in the first round of pre-selection.
“It’s a dream to compete at another games,” he said.
“This is actually the very first time I’ve been pre-selected. In London I was a rookie and I was picked in the second round, and for Rio I was also picked in the second round, so I’m just thankful athletics Australia see me as the right person for that job.”
Paralympics goal remains the same
The Tokyo Paralympics were due to begin August 2020, but a decision to delay the games because of the global COVID pandemic was announced in March.
As someone who has spent much of his life working towards structured goals, Rheed said the postponement of the games came as a shock but acknowledged that there were people going through much worse.
“It is hard, but there are a lot worse things going on at the moment, so the games being postponed is not the end of the world,” he said.
“You are preparing yourself for that moment and getting ready but at the same time it’s given me some extra time to focus, train and get ready.”
While COVID restrictions in New South Wales meant the closure of the local training track in Newcastle, Rheed McCracken said he has relished the opportunity to also focus on his studies.
“We had a few weeks where we couldn’t access the track so they closed, but we made do with what we could and being a sport where can go on the road, we’re super fortunate in that we can always train somehow,” he said.
“I also started doing some study again and all my schoolteachers will be happy to know I’m doing TAFE at the moment to get into a Bachelor of pharmacy.”
Different approach to third Paralympics
The Tokyo Paralympic will be Rheed’s third Paralympics.
He won silver and bronze at the London Paralympics in 2012, and then Silver and Bronze again at the Rio Paralympics in 2016.
This time, he is taking a different approach for what will no doubt be a very different Paralympics.
“I learn something new at every games I go to,” he said.
“In London, as the rookie, I went into it with no pressure, and then I went into Rio with all of added pressures that I probably put on myself, so I just want to enjoy this one.
“It’s been a crazy year and I’ll just let things play out the way they are and not get too worked up.
“I would love to say third’s time the charm and of course I’m going to go into this to win and give it everything I’ve got, but at the same time I also want to enjoy it and not be so stressed about what the future holds.”