Blake Cochrane, Angela Ballard make Australian history at upcoming Commonwealth Games

Swimmer Blake Cochrane will become the first Australian swimmer to compete in four Commonwealth Games when he plunges into the pool at Birmingham later this month.

He will also become the third Australian swimmer to compete in four competitions, alongside Adam Pine and Ashley Callus.

Cochrane says the excitement to represent his country is not waning.

“It might be number four, but to me that excitement and that passion is like it’s still number one,” he said.

“It’s kind of those bits of history that you don’t really think about — I’m just here to be an athlete and I really like what I do.”

The Sunshine Coast athlete has won four medals – two golds and two silvers – in three different strokes at the Commonwealth Games since making his debut in Delhi in 2010 as a 19-year-old.

“For me, I’ve always enjoyed the big meetings and the big games and that’s where I could put my best foot forward and put in my best performances,” he said.

“I’ve got two Australians ahead of me so I’m going to move up to third…but I hope we can go a little faster on race day.”

A shirtless man exercising in a gym.
Blake Cochrane OAM will make Australian history at the Games.Provided: Wade Brennan

Cochrane was born with a limb deficiency that affected his hands and feet.

“My swimming career started when I was too big to swim laps in the bathtub,” he said.

Since he started his para career as a 16-year-old, Cochrane said that appreciation for the competition had grown.

“Especially in my life there have been a lot of changes for me and the stories I’ve heard of athletes who went to competitions before 2000,” he said.

†[Para-athletics] are no longer recognized as an entry event.”

A shirtless para athlete sits smiling in what appears to be a locker room.
Cochrane has competed in all Commonwealth Games since Delhi 2010.Provided: Wade Brennan

Excitement builds

Birmingham 2022 is expected to have the largest women’s and parasport programs in history.

Wheelchair racer Angela Ballard will also make these races history when she enters her fourth races later in the race schedule.

“Athletes are actually celebrated for being athletes and the time, effort and energy we put into what we do,” she said.

“We are all human, just like everyone else, and so for us we don’t necessarily want to be told we can’t do something and for many of us it just motivates us to want to do it better.”

More than 20 Sunshine Coast athletes and coaches are preparing to represent the country at the Games.

“During last year’s Tokyo Paralympics we saw 14 medals won by UniSC para sports athletes, so Birmingham is really an opportunity to consolidate that,” said UniSC high performance sports director Brendan Burkett.

“The Commonwealth Games are an event that athletes circle in their calendar years ahead of time and the effort and sacrifice to be selected is immense in itself.

The swim team flies to France for a training camp before the competitions.

“It’s starting to get a little more exciting now that we’re in that last stretch of the lead in the game,” said Cochrane.

“We’ve done all the hard work, we’ve done everything we had to do and now, over the next 2.5 weeks, we’ll refine those skills and refresh the body and put together our best performance on race day.”

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