Wheelchair basketball Paralympian, Shelley Chaplin and two team mates are heading to Fiji later this year to be part of the first group ever to ride the perimeter of Fiji - a 550 kilometre cycle in ten days.
Speaker:Shelley Chaplin, Paralympian
CHAPLIN: I'm actually going to be doing it on a hand cycle so it's a little bit different for me. Yeah we're going to cycle around the perimeter of Fiji.
EWART: And you're doing this with a team mate from the basketball silver-medal winning team, Leanne Del Toso, how will she be getting around?
CHAPLIN: That's right. Leanne will ride a regular bike but her disability means that she has weakness in her legs and in her hands, so she has special splits that she wears on her legs so that she can ride a bike.
EWART: It certainly sounds like it's going to be a pretty arduous trip and I know you're not just doing this for fun, there are some very serious reasons behind it. So perhaps you can explain a little bit more about what is motivating you to take on this challenge?
CHAPLIN: Yeah definitely, it's actually a fundraiser for Disability Sport and Rec Victoria, and what they do is they raise money to get people involved in Victoria in wheelchair sports, but also when we go to these different countries to help the people there. So the trip's been in Cambodia before and Vietnam, and this one's in Fiji. And it's about raising awareness, people with disabilities, getting out there and trying sports and just having a good time I guess.
EWART: And one of the issues associated with that is the question of the stigma which is so often associated with disability, now plainly you're a shining example of how being disabled doesn't preclude you from getting involved in sport and rising right to the top. So this is a message you would like to pass on to the people you meet around Fiji?
CHAPLIN: Yeah definitely, we're really lucky in Australia that we have all these opportunities and that we can get into sport and stuff. But there are a lot of people that don't get the same opportunities and Fiji I think it's improving for them for sure, because they've just won a Paralympic medal, their first medal in any Olympic or Paralympic which is awesome. But I guess the image of disabled people I think really needs to improve and hopefully we can help out with that.
EWART: And in terms of the balance between the Olympics and Paralympics, do you feel that things are levelling out now, because plainly there was a lot of talk about how well Australia didn't do in the last Olympic Games in London. Whereas you guys in the Paralympics of course, you put on an outstanding performance, it was raining medals?
CHAPLIN: Yeah absolutely, we did a really great job over in London. And I think the Olympic team did a really great job as well, and they're getting a bit of a hard rap but for us I mean I've been to three Paralympics and when I went to Athens we got absolutely no exposure and no one back in Australia could really watch a lot of it. But now it's improved so much and the ABC did such a great job this year of bringing it back home to Australia. And yeah I really do feel like the Paralympic movement has improved a lot, and I think it's starting to get there, and it's starting to level out a little bit with the Olympians.
EWART: So as far as your trip around Fiji is concerned, what happens from here on in, how much more preparation do you have to do, and then when do you embark on the trip itself?
CHAPLIN: So Leanne and I set our goal to raise 13-thousand dollars, and we've already raised two-thousand dollars. So we're on our way there. And then we don't leave until June, so we've got a little bit more training to do. We started doing some bigger rides, because while we're in Fiji we do an average of about 60 kms a day, and one day's actually 97 kms, so that'll be challenging. But Leanne and I both sort of just started riding in the last month or so, or maybe three months, since London. So we need a bit more practice before we go over there.
EWART: Now of course wheelchair basketball is your field of expertise. But bearing in mind what you're taking on in Fiji, are you thinking of branching out into other sports?
CHAPLIN: Yeah definitely I'm really, really enjoying the bike riding, but my heart's always going to be with basketball. This is just good cross training and I'm still playing basketball, and I'm confident that I'm going to be going to Rio for basketball.
EWART: Yes I was going to ask you about that, I mean London was quite a party, but Rio who knows what could happen there?
CHAPLIN: Yeah I think it's going to be an amazing event and I actually told everyone that I'm done, I've been doing it for a long time, I think London might be my retiring time. But it was just too exciting and there's too much going on in the Paralympic movement that I've got to go again.
EWART: And tell me whilst you're on the trip around Fiji will you have a mobile phone with you, because we'd love to catch up with you on route?
CHAPLIN: Yeah definitely, so Leanne and I have a website that we are raising our money on. It's called teambus, and so we'll be providing video blogs and stuff for everybody to watch.