Game changers

Game Changers

Profile photo of Kobie Donovan

Kobie Donovan

(Brisbane)

Kobie is one of Australia’s best short-statured athletes competing in track and field events, and is the current world record holder for the 100m for athletes in her competition category (T40). Born into a sporting family, Kobie has always been active but only became aware of how far she could go in sport after watching short-statured athletes competing at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. Her decision to find out more about competitive sport led her to Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association, where she has received encouragement and support as a member of the Junior Development Program. Kobie is training hard towards her dream of representing Australia at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Profile photo of Marayke Jonkers

Marayke Jonkers

(Sunshine Coast)

Marayke’s journey from a young child with paraplegia to a three-time Paralympian has inspired people around the country as a result of her motivational speaking and media coverage. Marayke won a silver and two bronze Paralympic medals as a swimmer, and later became Australia’s first female paratriathlete when she won bronze at the world championships in 2010. Since retiring from competitive sport, Marayke has focused her attention on encouraging and supporting promising athletes with a disability which has included the development of the Sporting Dreams Foundation. Marayke’s story is one of never giving up on your dreams, and striving to get the best out of yourself no matter what obstacles life throws in your path.

Profile photo of Rachael Dodds

Rachael Dodds

(Brisbane)

Rachael is one of Australia’s rising stars on the athletics track and made her Paralympic debut as a 17-year-old at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Born with cerebral palsy, Rachael was encouraged by her physiotherapist to get involved in athletics while she was in primary school. She showed maturity beyond her years in juggling study, training, recovery sessions, competition events and travel throughout her high school years leading up to the London Games. Rachael has been supported as a member of Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association’s Junior Development Program, and loves the feeling of success and accomplishment after having worked hard to achieve a goal.

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Helena Kidd

(Rockhampton)

Helena is one of Queensland’s best players in the highly competitive sport of boccia, which is based on the Italian bowls game of bocce. Despite the severe effects of cerebral palsy, Helena has had an active sporting career for over 23 years including international athletics competition, where she competed in foot pushing events designed for athletes in wheelchairs who can only propel themselves by their feet. She credits sport with improving her confidence and independence, and helping to better deal with situations that arise in everyday living. Helena is hoping to compete in boccia at the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016.

Profile photo of Brenden Hall

Brenden Hall

(Brisbane)

Brenden is one of Australia’s top Paralympic swimmers, having won gold in both the 400m freestyle and the 4x100m men’s freestyle relay as well as bronze as part of the 4x100m medley relay team at the London 2012 Games. At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Brenden won gold in the 400m freestyle, silver in the 100m freestyle and bronze in the 100m backstroke. The 2012 Sporting Wheelie of the Year had his right leg amputated and has a hearing impairment as a result of a childhood bout of chickenpox. Brenden is inspired by his role models Matthew Cowdrey, Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps, but he is proving an inspiration in his own right through his role as ambassador with a number of community programs aimed at promoting sport, exercise and physical activity to young people. As Brenden says, “Motivating kids to do more things in life is one of my goals. If an impact can be made on them while they are young, then you know that you have helped prepare them for the future.”

Profile photo of Natalie Hodges

Natalie Hodges

(Townsville)

Natalie’s story is one of sheer determination to achieve her personal best despite all the hurdles life has put in front of her. Natalie was born with spina bifida and had to use a wheelchair for mobility. In her late teens, an autoimmune disease left her with rheumatoid arthritis and she weighed more than 100kg. Natalie started playing wheelchair basketball in 2005 as a way to build her fitness. She lost 51kgs and was selected to represent Australia in the U25 world championships in Canada in 2011. Natalie’s dream came true when she was named in the Australian women’s team, the Gliders. Two weeks after returning from a tournament in Japan, Natalie suffered a seizure while driving and sustained five fractures to her spine. After almost 18 months of rehabilitation, Natalie made her comeback and was named ‘Most Valuable Player’ at the 2014 Queensland Wheelchair Basketball Championships. She now plays in the Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball League as a member of the state team, the MineCraft Comets, and is also a tireless promoter of sport for people with disabilities in the Townsville region.

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