“Tokyo was a different Games. Being a viewer, it was so compelling,” Clark said. “I was completely impressed by every athlete with how they told their story after their events. The things they said and the passion and purpose … it has an indelible impact on what this means.
“I thought, I’ve got to be a part of it. This is amazing. The story is written after that. I joined in February [last year].”
But it was her sons’ reactions that made Clark realise exactly what the Paralympic movement meant.
“My sons are six and nine years old. They don’t live with an impairment,” Clark said. “They were so impressed with what was happening on their screens that both of them wanted to be a Paralympian. This is about the opportunity to use sport as a platform for broader social change. I saw it in the micro case of my boys.
“They were then working out how they could do what those athletes were doing. They’re watching [swimmer] Rowan Crothers, who has cerebral palsy, asking why he doesn’t have a disability? How is he at the Paralympics? This is our opportunity to have these conversations and talk about disability and remove the barriers put in place for living with a disability.”
The Paralympics now have a new Australian broadcaster, with Nine Entertainment Co winning the rights for next year’s Games in Paris.
Three months after Nine announced it would show the next three summer Olympic Games in Paris (2024), Los Angeles (2028) and Brisbane (2032), as well as two Winter Olympics, the media giant has added the Paralympics, for the first time, to its stable of live sport.
Nine owns The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Brisbane Times and WAtoday.
Negotiations for Olympics broadcast rights are separate to the Paralympics, which is only allocated one Games at a time.
Channel Seven were in discussions to retain the rights, having shown the Paralympics in 2016 and 2021, before Paralympics Australia settled on Nine as the new rights holder.
Seven was the first commercial network to broadcast the Paralympics. SBS and ABC have also shown the Games.
Clark said Nine’s enormous audience and ability to drive interest across television, radio and print would be important to continue the rise of the Paralympic movement.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Nine Entertainment,” Clark said. “We want to take Paralympic stories as far and wide as we can and Nine has the capacity and capability to do that.
“We talked with multiple partners throughout the journey, including Seven. Seven have done a great job to take the coverage to where it is right now. We are looking to build that into the future.”
Paralympic legend Ellie Cole said a new broadcast deal would provide “relief” to athletes.
“We’ve been waiting quite a long time for the broadcasting rights to be announced,” Cole said. “We’re in really good hands with the Nine Network. There will be a real buzz around the athlete group today.
“To have them [Paralympics and Olympics] on the same network goes to show that Australia is one of the leading countries when it comes to inclusion in sport. It sends a really strong message. Kids with disabilities are growing up and seeing that they’re very valued as athletes.”
Next year’s Paralympics run from August 28 to September 8 – the Olympics finish on August 11– and will also be broadcast on Nine’s radio platforms, which include 2GB Sydney and 3AW Melbourne.
Australia finished eighth on the Tokyo Paralympics medal tally with 21 gold medals.
In a statement, Nine chief executive Mike Sneesby said: “It is a privilege to be able to bring the Paralympic Games of Paris 2024 to Australia. We look forward to building our relationship with Paralympics Australia and ensuring the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games are accessible across more platforms than ever before.”
Cole, Australia’s most decorated female Paralympian, assures there will be no comeback in Paris. She is more than satisfied with her 17 medals in the pool.
However, the 31-year-old says she would jump at the chance to commentate at the Games.
“I’d love to be part of the commentary team,” Cole said. “I know so much about the athletes that are out there and I think I’ve got to know them from when we were kids. To be over there and part of that would be very special. I’m a massive sports fan. I go crazy over para sport.”