‘It was unbelievable’, Rizzo reflects on Commonwealth Games experience

BUZZING: Commonwealth Games wheelchair athlete Sam Rizzo arrived back in Buninyong on Tuesday after an experience of a lifetime. Picture: Lachlan Bence
BUZZING: Commonwealth Games wheelchair athlete Sam Rizzo arrived back in Buninyong on Tuesday after an experience of a lifetime. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Sam Rizzo says he is getting back to reality very slowly as the excitement from his first Commonwealth Games experience is yet to wear off.    

The 17-year-old para-athlete arrived in Buninyong in the early hours of Tuesday morning and was back at school by Wednesday.

But his time on the Gold Coast as a member of the Australian team is still at the forefront of his mind.

He described his first days at the Commonwealth Games village as overwhelming, but said he tried hard to focus on his usual routine. 

It worked. Rizzo finished fourth in T54 1500m heat one with a time of 3:12.91 minutes to qualify for the men’s final where he finished sixth. 

The Damascus student said he felt more pressure in his heat than the final, but felt comfortable asking questions and talking through what might happen with the more experienced athletes. 

“Leading up to that race I was very, very, very nervous,” Rizzo said of his first event. 

“But after I got that event done I was very happy to qualify for a final. It was a lot of weight off my shoulders.” 

But he is lost for words when he tries to describe the experience of being on the track for a prime-time home final at Carrara Stadium. 

 Sam Rizzo competing in the heats to qualify for the final. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Sam Rizzo competing in the heats to qualify for the final. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins

“It was unbelievable the atmosphere and the energy that every single person brought to those Games from the volunteers to the security there,” Rizzo said.

“I went out there and did what I needed to... I was happy to qualify for the final, let alone sixth all up so I was over the moon.”

Legendary Australian para-athlete Kurt Fearnley, who happened to be Rizzo’s roommate, claimed the silver in his final track event, while fellow Australian Jake Lappin secured bronze.

“Kurt was great up there, he kept a good eye out for me,” Rizzo said.

Without Geelong-based coach Paralympic gold medallist Richard Colman, the love and support of his family, WestVic Academy and MCPhysio, Rizzo was adamant he would not be where he finds himself today.

Now the young track star will take a well-deserved break from competing as he focuses on his year 12 studies and gets back into a solid season of winter training.​