Paralympian aims for Tokyo Games

By Jackson Russell

Wallan Paralympic gold medallist Rod Welsh is hoping to again make a splash on the international stage but needs help from the community to do it.

Welsh competed in the S10 class at the 2004 Athens Paralympics, winning gold in the men’s 4x100m medley relay, silver in the 200m individual medley and 4x100m freestyle relay, and bronze in the 100m backstroke. He also received an OAM for his efforts.

At just 22 years-old, he walked away from the sport in 2006, starting a career in transport, getting married and having a child.

But he’s now returned to international level after two years back in the pool.

Welsh has Volkmann’s ischemic contracture which has caused him to lose the muscles in his forearm that controls wrist and finger movement in his right hand.

Welsh is currently ranked first in his class in the 50m backstroke, third in the 50m butterfly, fourth in the 50m freestyle, fourth in the 100m backstroke and fifth in the 100m freestyle by World Para Swimming.

Walsh said he trained eight or nine times a week to shave off that half second he needed for selection to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

However, training is almost a full-time job and is taking a lot of time away from his work – making it hard to cover all the costs associated with making a push for the 2020 Games.

“My problem at the moment is that I’m sinking a lot of time into now training eight or nine times a week and then going to the gym on top of it so I’m taking a lot of time off work to try and make it happen,” he said.

“I’ve still got a mortgage and it’s getting expensive so I’m looking for a hand from the local community because I don’t know if they realise there are people in the community that are at this level.”

After a career in transport, including driving B-doubles around Australia, Walsh will change careers, starting an electrical pre-apprenticeship later this year.

“I’m just looking for someone who understands that I want to change careers but I’m also within a hair of getting back into the Tokyo 2020 team, which would be pretty good at my age,” Walsh said.

“I’m trying to get an electrical trade but I know it’s really hard for tradesmen to take on mature-aged guys because of the costs involved.”

Walsh said he would be happy for businesses to sponsor him and help get him to Tokyo.

“It would help me and take the pressure off me to provide so much through work. It gets difficult trying to do it all because you don’t get paid to swim,” he said.