By Aaron Goodwin
Bundaberg’s three proud Paralympic athletes were welcomed home this week at a special Q&A and presentation at the Bundaberg Multiplex.
Samantha Schmidt, Chris Pitt and Rheed McCracken spoke about their experiences at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, navigating the Games through a pandemic and about their journey’s to reach competing with the world’s best.
Samantha finished sixth in the F38 discus event, in just her first Paralympics and international competition .
Throwing in wet and shocking conditions for discus, Samantha is proud of her efforts and happy to be back home.
”I definitely feel at home, I missed all the people,” Ms Schmidt said.
”I went from not being able to talk to anybody, too being around all of the Bundaberg community.
”The Olympians said they could feel the people watching back home and that’s exactly as we felt.
”I thin for my first time, it went as well as it wished.
”I went out there with the hope of getting a PB, I didn’t get a PB but I gave it my best.
”Given the circumstances, the weather, I am very happy with how I threw.”
Samantha said it wasn’t till she boarded the plane for Tokyo it really hit her that she’d be representing Australia, her dream since she was four.
”I didn’t think it was happening, I looked at my parents and said is this what I think it is,” Ms Schmidt said.
”When I got the phone call, again we couldn’t get to excited because we weren’t sure what was going to happen, if there was going to be another breakout.
”I have been told since I have been home, how I’ve inspired young kids to get out and do sports.
”That does get me a little bit teary-eyed, I’m not gonna lie.”
56 year-old Chris finished 30th in the P3 Mixed 25m Pistol and 25th in the P1 Men’s 10m Air Pistol events.
Remarkably In late 2020, Chris had half of his tongue removed following treatment for tongue cancer.
Pitt narrowly missed out on the bronze medal in the P3 event at the 2016 Rio games.
”It’s great that council that puts on these things, acknowledges what we do and the Mayor’s words were very nice
”It’s awesome to be back.
”I know the support was there.
”I knew before I left for Tokyo that everyone was following what I did.
”To get to a second Paralympics, especially at my age starting late, the result wasn’t there, I had issues with my gun.
”It was my goal and to just sit and think, how many people would love to be in that situation.
”You have to look at the big picture and appreciate what you do have and what you get.”
In actual fact, Rheed’s selection to the London 2012 Games, as a 15 year-old, inspired Chris to pursue a Paralympic dream.
”Rheed was the one that inspired me to chase the big stage,” Mr Pitt said.
”When Rheed was selected, I felt the whole town was amazed.
”I used to get goosebumps thinking a 15 year-old kid from Bundaberg.
”I used to swim with Rheed’s aunties and uncles.
”I can’t put it into words, how much watching Rheed succeed, especially winning medals at that age and his first games, it 100 percent inspired me to go for it.”
Winning silver in the 100m T38 class at Tokyo, Rheed McCracken now has three silver medals and a bronze at the Games.
Appearing via video link, Rheed thanked everyone who has helped him on the journey, with his eyes on the World Championships next year.
”I want to thank all the people who are at the table there,” Mr McCracken said.
”Mum, dad, grandma, aunt, all those people who have supported me throughout everything.
”Also the Bundaberg community.
”I’m not living there but the community has supported me throughout the past Games.”