Paralympics 2018: Joany Badenhorst named Australian Paralympics flagbearer

PyeongChang: A snowboarder who agonisingly missed competing in Sochi after a heavy crash in her final training run will carry the flag for Australia at Friday night’s Winter Paralympics opening ceremony.

Joany Badenhorst, 23, who had her left leg amputated below the knee after a farm accident 12 years ago, has earned the distinction to lead Australia’s contingent of 15 athletes in PyeongChang.

“For me it’s really, really special because it’s something every athlete aspires to. And for my family back at home, when they watch me bring in it really hits home what I’m doing, who I represent and why I’m here doing what I do,” Badenhorst said.

Hailing from South Africa, Badenhorst’s family moved to Australia four years after her accident.

Having shown significant track and field prowess, talent identifiers spotted her as an athlete with serious Paralympic potential. But after missing selection for London six years ago, she was approached by the Australian Paralympic Committee to switch to alpine pursuits.

Shockingly, on her final training run before her first snowboard event in Russia four years ago, Badenhorst crashed badly, dislocating her knee and collapsing her hip.

Badenhorst, from Griffith in New South Wales, is one of four females on the Australian team, will be the first woman to carry the flag for Australia at a Winter Paralympics.

“I’m a little overwhelmed,” said Badenhorst.

“It’s an incredibly big honour and I don’t think people grasp what it means to an athlete to be able to carry their country’s flag into such an incredible event. (I’m) emotional and overwhelmed.”

Badenhorst said she needed to be told three times before the news of her honour sunk in properly.

“It’s a very special honour. I think it’s like when you send out birthday invites and you turn up to your own surprise party and everyone actually showed up, it’s that feeling. It’s the first bite of normal food when you’re home. Or seeing your dog again,” she said.

“It’s all of that at once. It’s amazing.

“The Paralympics is a celebration of the most incredible things.

“I had no clue my name was even in the hat to be drawn. Very taken aback. I think I misunderstood three times.”

Australia’s squad of 15 athletes includes Para-snowboarders and Para-skiers, including three sighted guides.

Badenhorst is the co-captain of the team along with Para-alpine skier Mitchell Gourley.


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