FOR all the uncertainty in our sport right now and the big questions that surround finals season, we need good news right now.
Tokyo Paralympics start on Tuesday.
There is no doubting for all the controversy and doubt surrounding the staging of the Tokyo Olympics, the Games boosted our spirit amid lockdowns and changing sports regulations.
We get a second reprieve with the Paralympics.
While few of us in regional Victoria get the chance to play sport at the moment, and even fewer classified truly essential for the chance to watch live matches, Paralympic action is what just what we need.
It will be a massive feat for our major sporting codes, particularly our big parochial crowd-drawers like football, to pull off a finals series in any form safely. But that is what Tokyo is about to attempt a second time on a massive international scale.
Six-time Paralympian Jodi Willis-Roberts told Press Box she was surprised the Paralympics were going ahead but glad, all the same, for athletes.
"Three or four years' training is a long time when you put your life on hold to go to the Paralympics or Olympics only for it to get cancelled," Willis-Roberts said.
Kinda feels a little the same when you consider the stop-start nature of our grassroots sports and the massive efforts both for players and club officials to get teams in action this season.
Willis-Roberts, who now lives in Queensland, has continued to keep a close check on Australia's goalball team.
Like most athletes in our region, some even still now, restrictions have prevented players from training or playing together much in the sport for visually impaired athletes the past 18 months. Athletes have had to work hard as individuals.
"They haven't had any international competition...But we didn't really have much competition internationally between Paralympics and world championships either," Willis-Roberts said. "At the end of the day, you couldn't control what others were doing; you can only control what you are doing and go out and do the best you can to your ability."
This is just as pertinent a message to Ballarat Football Netball League senior finals contenders who remain on standby. And it should ring true to Central Highlands teams piecing together finals campaigns under tight COVID-safe limitations.
MORE PRESS BOX
Five-time Paralympian Greg Smith faces this challenge as strength and conditioning coach for the Steelers, Australia's wheelchair rugby team. Smith has been preparing athletes remotely their Tokyo campaign from his Buninyong home.
You could argue this is a compromised Paralympics in Tokyo and a compromised winter sports season in Ballarat. Really, competition right now at the international level or grassroots is about who is best prepared under pandemic limitations.
Each time a Games rolls about, Willis-Roberts gets the urge to pick up a shot put or discus again. Five-Ring fever is what Ballarat Olympic rower Anthony Edwards calls it.
Then Willis-Roberts remembers the toll on her body and lets those who can do - while cheering from afar.
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