Silver lining for Bundaberg Athletes at Little Athletics Championships

West Bundaberg's Jacob Last in action at the Coles Australian Little Athletics Championships. Image: Contributed

Brendan Bowers

Bundaberg athletes Jacob Last and Xavier Blair claimed silver medals for Queensland at the Coles Australian Little Athletics Championships, held at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium on 23 – 24 April.

Bundaberg Little Athletics’ Xavier leapt to silver with a jump of 1.65m in the Under 13 boys’ high jump, while West Bundaberg Little Athletics’ Jacob was one of 10 young para-athletes who made history by being the first group of athletes to compete in the multi-class category of the championships.

Jacob, who has triplegic cerebral palsy, which affects his left arm and legs, took home the silver medal in the Under 13 multi-class boys’ discus with a throw of 19.39 metres.

The Bundaberg State High student said he was thrilled to compete on the national stage with other multi-class athletes.

“I was really happy and proud to represent Queensland, but I was also nervous because I wanted to make everyone proud,” he said.

“I really enjoyed building stronger relationships with my fellow multi-class athletes from other states and seeing multi-class actually on the front of the medal. I don’t have any medals with that on there.

“I think it’s really important to have multi-class athletes at the Coles Australian Little Athletics Championships because it shows they are on the right path to inclusiveness. Showing support to kids just like me helps.

West Bundaberg Little Athletics’ Jacob Last on the podium at the Coles Australian Little Athletics Championships build our self-confidence. Still, also it’s showcasing that everyone is worthy and can achieve great things just like our able-bodied peers. Our disabilities don’t define us.”

Jacob has been competing in Little Athletics since 2019 when his primary school PE teacher nominated him to compete in the school’s district athletics carnival.

“From there, I made the Wide Bay Team and attended the Queensland Schools Championships. I knew then this was something I wanted to do. We returned home just in time to attend the come and try a night at West Bundaberg Little Athletics, where I have been a member since,” the 12-year-old explained.

“Discus is my favourite event, but I do love to run as well. My goal is to represent Australia, and I would love to be good enough to be part of the 2032 games.”

The Queensland Little Athletics state team finished with 16 gold, 16 silver and nine bronze medals to finish second overall in the Under 13 and third in the Under 15 team trophies.

Coles Little Athletics Australia president Sherrie Boulter said the championships were an excellent way to conclude a successful summer season for Little Athletics in Australia.

“It’s great to have the Coles Australian Little Athletics Championships back after a two-year hiatus due to Covid and to be able to include multi-class athletes for the very first time,” she said.

“The event has been sorely missed by everyone, and to have our best Under 13 and Under 15 athletes competing for their state once again is extremely important for the Little Athletics pathway and for the kids to showcase their talent on a national stage.”

Coles corporate affairs general manager Sally Fielke said Coles was proud to sponsor the Australian Little Athletics Championships as part of its long-standing partnership with Little Athletics.

“Coles is extremely delighted to help bring the Australian Little Athletics Championships back after a Covid break,” she said.

“We’ve loved watching the camaraderie between the young athletes and the rivalry between the states throughout the two-day event.

“We’re particularly proud of the performances of the multi-class athletes who were represented at ALAC for the very first time this year, making this a truly inclusive event for all little athletes.”

In addition to sponsoring the national championships, Coles supermarkets across Australia have donated more than 3.7 million bananas and distributed more than $2 million in sports equipment grants to help Little Athletics centres nurture the next generation of Aussie athletes.