Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) scholarship holder, Col Pearse, has never let his disability get in the way of dreaming big. He hopes that he can use his profile as an elite athlete to inspire the next generation of kids to want to “be like Col Pearse.”
“My disability has let me achieve many amazing things,” he said.
“All the way from winning a Commonwealth Games gold medal, to having the opportunity to inspire kids back home [Echuca] with or without a disability.”
Pearse had his right foot amputated when he was 2 years old, after an accident with a lawnmower on his family’s dairy farm.
“There have definitely been challenges along the way,” Pearse admits.
“But I’m so grateful that my family just treated me like a normal kid.”
The 19-year-old has enjoyed a sensational year in the swimming pool, winning two silver medals at the 2022 World Para Swimming Championships, a gold medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and presented the 2022 VIS Para Athlete Award.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to compete for Australia and wear the green and gold.”
When Pearse reflects on his journey to becoming a Commonwealth Games gold medalist, he recalls a moment in his life that motivated “someone like him” to go on and represent Australia.
“I watched Ellie Cole win four gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games,” he said.
“For me at a young age, seeing people that are similar to me do amazing things in the world is what really inspires me.”
Remembering the impact this moment had on his life, Pearse is grateful that he can now use his profile as an elite athlete to inspire the community and continue normalising people with disability.
“One of the big things I want to do, is really normalise it [his disability], have conversations about it, and to never let it stop me,” he said.
“I was just a kid who wanted to be like Ellie Cole, and now I have the opportunity to inspire younger kids to want to be like Col Pearse.”
Pearse has been encouraged with how far inclusivity has come in his sport, and his daily training environment.
“I’m part of an Olympic swimming program, and for me to be a Paralympic athlete amongst a group of people without a disability is amazing,” he said.
“My disability has become normalised within that group.”
“They all understand that I’m missing a foot, but they all also hold me accountable for training and my day-to-day life inside and outside of the water.”
Looking towards the Brisbane 2032 Paralympic Games, Pearse is excited about the future of Para sport and the funding boost it may receive to help encourage more athletes to experiment with different sports and hopefully want to represent Australia at a home Paralympic Games.
“It’s a great time now for kids living with a disability in Australia to try out different sports and most importantly have fun and enjoy doing it.”
Did you know that 4.4 million Australians live with disability?
International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) is held on 3 December each year and aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions.
At the Victorian Institute of Sport, over 50 of our scholarship holders live with a disability and use their profiles as elite athletes to inspire the community.