UniSA students Gabriel Cole and Jay Dohnt are set to inspire not only the UniSA community but all Australians when they compete for the ‘green and gold’ at the London Paralympics.
London will be 22-year-old Dohnt’s second Paralympics, after a bronze medal winning swim at Beijing four years ago in the 400 metres freestyle.
For 20-year-old sprinter Cole (pictured right), it will be his first Paralympics, the pinnacle of his already outstanding athletics career to date.
Cole, who is studying a Bachelor of Interior Architecture, will compete in London in the 100 metres and 4x100 relay in the T46 arm amputee category.
Born with a minor deformity of his left hand, Cole entered the world of Paralympic sport in 2009 after being recommended to coach Stephen Butler by one of his school teachers. By the time he was 18, he had already represented Australia on the world stage.
In just three years, Cole has represented Australia at the Oceania Games, has been named SA AWD (Athlete with a Disability) Athlete of the Year, and competed in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. More recently, he warmed up for his first Paralympic Games with a successful trip to Europe where he won both gold and silver at the 2011 German Nationals.
Cole trains six days a week, usually twice a day, and says it has taken a lot of hard work and dedication to get to the Paralympics.
“It is definitely a dream come true to go to the Paralympics, but I intend on doing something big in London when I get there,” Cole says.
Cole says he has managed to balance full-time study (part-time this semester) with his athletics career quite well.
“The uni is accommodating and I have a good relationship with my teachers and some good uni friends,” Cole says.
“Athletics has given me a lot and will always be part of who I am, but I have lots of design and art goals and I intend to collaborate the two, especially in regards to interior design.”
Cole is hoping to break the 11-second mark in the 100 metres in London.
Dohnt (pictured right), who is studying a Bachelor of Social Work, will compete in London in three swimming events – the 200 metres individual medley, 100 metres breastroke and 400 metres freestyle.
Dohnt suffered from the side effects of meningococcal disease when he was 13 years old, losing both of his legs and his fingers on one hand. The near death experience led Dohnt to dream about going to the Paralympic Games while he was in hospital, shaping the course of his swimming career.
The Beijing Paralympics in 2008 are the highlight of Dohnt’s swimming career to date. He entered the Beijing Games ranked fourth in the world with a goal of securing a medal, and won bronze in the 400 metres freestyle. In 2009, he was inducted into the Swimming South Australia Hall of Fame.
Dohnt has been training twice a day, six days a week, with coach Peter Bishop at Marion State Aquatic Centre. He swims 50km a week as well as putting in at least four hours a week in the gym.
He says going to the Paralympics the second time around will be “just as exciting”.
“Time has certainly gone fast since I competed in Beijing and I’m really excited about London and proud of my achievement of making it to two Paralympic Games,” he says.
“I think the competitors of the Paralympics show a lot of strength by overcoming adversity to do what they do after suffering life-changing experiences.”
Dohnt says his university study has balanced well with his swimming career.
“It’s good to have something other than swimming – my university study makes a big difference to my life overall,” he says.
“Swimming has its ups and downs – if you’re just swimming and you swim poorly, then you feel like life is going poorly. Sometimes it gets hectic doing both swimming and study, especially if I’m travelling overseas and trying to get assignments in, but overall the balance of the two is really enjoyable.
“Ultimately when I finish swimming and my degree, I want to work with young offenders in a corrections environment, one-on-one with kids, and perhaps go into working at a policy level down the track too.”
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