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26 August 2021
Bill Hunter is chaplain for the Australian Paralympics team in Tokyo this year.
WORDS Darryl Whitecross
Salvo Bill Hunter will serve as a chaplain on the Australian team for this year’s Paralympics in Tokyo, which will be held from 24 August to 5 September.
Bill is the leader of ‘God’s Sports Arena’, a Salvos church in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, and is no stranger to elite sport. He was chaplain to the Brisbane Broncos rugby league team for 20 years and has competed in top long-distance running competitions around the world.
As a member of the three-person Paralympics Australia welfare team, Bill said he would be “the first port of call” should any situation develop within the team not of a physical nature. The other two members are a doctor and a psychologist. The team will meet regularly during the Games to discuss issues and potential issues, such as homesickness or other personal concerns.
Bill said he was looking forward to the challenge of supporting athletes who may be struggling. He added that being able to support the team members in athletics, cycling and swimming, where Australia has its “best medal chances ever”, is “unbelievable”.
The team chaplain since the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney had been Murray Lydeamore, a long-time Australian and Paralympics Welfare Coordinator at the Australian Institute of Sport and with Cycling Australia’s High-Performance Program in Adelaide.
Murray was unable to be part of the team in Tokyo and recommended Bill replace him. He said the chaplain’s role was important and that athlete welfare was of “paramount importance” to Paralympics Australia.
COVID-19 restrictions on team segregation, village movement and meeting together will put more strain on the athletes this year as they will not be permitted to “move about as freely” as at past Games.
Athletes will be away for a minimum of seven weeks, “which puts extra strain on them and their families,” Murray explained. “This makes a focus on ensuring athlete welfare even more important this year.”