Champion athlete Andre Rivett dreams of winning gold at the Paralympics in Brisbane in 2032 – but first he will have to win a fight to give Down syndrome competitors a place at the Games.
The Woodridge sportsman and his family want rules changed so that there is a separate category for people with the genetic disorder.
Dad Steven told *PS Logan: “We are lobbying and there are a lot of people around the world who are lobbying from different countries.”
At the moment, athletes like Rivett have to try to win a spot at the Paralympics in a general intellectual disability category, pitting them against those who have no physical disabilities at all.
This effectively rules them out of ever taking part, because of the physical challenges which also come with Down syndrome.
But if the rules do change, Australia could have a Paralympic superstar on its hands in Brisbane.
Rivett, 25, has already won 102 medals, at last count.
Nicknamed “the Hulk”, he is currently ranked No1 Down syndrome athlete in Australia for javelin, and No2 for both discus and shotput. In Queensland, he is No1 in all three events.
But Rivett’s coach Brett Green has told the athlete’s parents Steven and Christine that their son is not yet even hitting his stride.
Steven explained: “Brett believes he won’t start peaking until he’s 30 so he should be in his prime come 2032.”
With his Paralympic dream in mind – and motivated by his love of winning medals, particularly gold ones – Rivett trains six days a week, every week.
He gets up at 5am to be at the gym by 6am, and his only day off is Sunday.
His father said: “He loves it – we found that early mornings in the gym was best for him as he’s fresh and gets in and trains with his coach.”
Despite playing soccer, rugby union and basketball in Under Tens teams, it was not until Rivett competed for Kuraby Special School at a regional athletics competition aged 13 that his true talents were revealed.
His father recalled: “He just couldn’t lose at the carnival, he won everything.”
Soon, fellow competitors who were amazed by his powerhouse performances gave him the nickname he loves.
Steven said: “The name, Hulk, came out of the very first comp he ever went to for discus and the guys there called him that and it’s just stuck.”
Rivett regularly re-watches the various Hulk movies – sometimes twice a week.
His first coach was Des Davis from Beaudesert, but now it is Brett Green and strength and conditioning coach Keira Dunlop who are hoping to help him all the way to Paralympic glory.
They have already seen him give storming performances in other overseas championships, including winning a silver in discus at the Down Syndrome World Championships in the Czech Republic in June this year.
And his quest for the Brisbane Games is also backed by sporting organisations which have been fighting for years to get the International Paralympic Committee to add a Down syndrome classification to the 32 categories which are currently included in the Games.
Michael Thomson of Sport Inclusion Australia said: “Sport Inclusion Australia is committed to supporting athletes like Andre Rivett to pursue their dreams in elite competition”.
The group is working with Virtus, the global organisation for elite athletes with intellectual impairments, in a bid to advocate for the rule change.
Rivett’s father said: “Andre’s goal is to promote Down syndrome athletics and get it added to the Paralympics in Brisbane in 2032.
“It just all depends on the governing body.”
Down syndrome is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability, accounting for about 15 per cent of cases in Australia.
As of 2019 there were estimated to be between 13,000 and 15,000 people with the disorder in Australia, according to Down Syndrome Australia.