Teenage wheelchair Sam Rizzo athlete off to Gold Coast Commonwealth Games

Teenage wheelchair para-athlete Sam Rizzo is Ballarat’s newest Commonwealth Games representative.

The Damascus College Year 12 student will compete in the T53-T54 1500 metres on the Gold Coast next month.

Sam Rizzo looking relaxed at Damascus College after his Commonwealth Games selection announcement.

Sam Rizzo looking relaxed at Damascus College after his Commonwealth Games selection announcement.

Rizzo from Buninyong said it was exciting to finally be able to talk publicly about selection after having to keep it a secret for a few weeks.

He said it had not been easy keeping a secret.

While he looks calm on the outside with news of his selection at last out in the open, Rizzo remains as excited as the moment his mother broke the news to him.

“I’m stoked. It didn’t sink in for a while.”

For the 17-year-old, this will be the biggest moment of his one young athletic career.

As big as the World Para-Athletics Junior Championships were last year when he stood on the podium four times, the Commonwealth Games will put him on centre stage alongside Australia’s sporting elite on home soil.

Rizzo said he had been hopeful of making the team, but only having a B-qualifying time meant he had not expected selection.

He said it was going to be a huge experience to compete alongside legendary wheelchair athlete Kurt Fearnley, who was retiring from international competition after the Games.

Rizzo, who is coached by Geelong-based Paralympic gold medallist Richard Colman and also gets training support from the WestVic Academy of Sport, plans to make the most of the experience.

He will take part in the opening ceremony before contesting the 1500m wheelchair heats on April 9 and hopefully the final a day later.

The Gold Coast is the second Commonwealth Games which has fully integrated para-athlete events as part of its program.

Up to 300 para-athletes in 38 medal events across seven sports will taske part – 45 per cent more athletes and 73 per cent more medals compared with the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.