Eighteen Queenslanders Headline Australia’s 26-strong Dolphins Team Named for the 2023 Para World Championships in Manchester

21 April 2023
Written by: Ian Hanson

Queensland will supply 18 members of the 26-strong swim team bound for this year’s Para World Swimming Championships in Manchester.


The team includes Queensland’s six individual Paralympic Gold Medallists and inspiring debutant Alexa Leary – the former champion triathlete who has remarkably reignited her life through her love of sport through swimming  after an horrific bike accident – her dreams now set on next year’s Paralympics in Paris.


There was a special moment on pool deck last night when Alexa was greeted onto the team by recently appointed Para Team head coaches Kate Sparkes and Harley Connolly.


Before the team’s parents were invited to the pool deck at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre to form a tunnel of honour, which included Alex’s proud mum and dad Belinda and Russell Leary, who have been rocks in their daughter’s two-year fight.


A far cry from their daily hospital visits as Alexa recovered from the horror crash that saw her in an induced coma and fighting for her life.


Leary (St Hilda's QLD) under coach Jon Bell, will be joined by another Queensland debutant in 19-year-old Poppy Wilson – one of three from head coach Kate Sparkes program at Yeronga Park.


The Dolphins will contest this year’s 2023 World Para Swimming Championships in Manchester, UK from July 31 to August 6.


The Para Dolphins team was named after a sensational four days of competition at the Australian Swimming Championships which concluded at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, last night.


The Australian Dolphins squad will feature five individual Tokyo gold medallists – all from Queensland in Rowan Crothers (Yeronga Park, QLD), Will Martin (Chandler, QLD), Lakeisha Patterson (USC Spartans, QLD), Benjamin Hance (St Andrews, QLD), and Rachael Watson (Chandler, QLD) and two-time London and Rio gold medallist Brenden Hall (USC Spartans, QLD)who are among 20 survivors of the 2020 Tokyo team – and headlining the 18 Maroons.


Recently appointed Head Coaches of the Australian Dolphins Paralympic team, Sparkes and Harley Connolly, are both excited for the depth of talent the team boasts for the World Championships.


Connolly said:  “I’m really impressed with how the swimmers have shaped up and put their bodies on the line to get themselves on the Australian Team.


“We have a really experienced team as well as (the) two debutants which is exciting. 


“Alexa has an amazing story, where following her accident she had while riding she managed to come back in a different sport and now will be able to challenge the world with her swimming.


“While Poppy is another who has been an up and comer for years and has finally broken through in the S10 Class and she’s going to be really competitive over the 400m freestyle and the 100m butterfly when we get to Worlds.”


With just under 500 days to go until the Paris Paralympics, Connolly said the team is tracking well.


“Really excited on how the team is swimming, especially the up and comers who are just behind the guys who have made the team this year. 


“It’s really exciting to see the young kids who are pushing the older ones and it’s making everyone better.”


This Para Dolphins team has a motto that ‘better people make a better team’  - something they will take on their pathway to Paris.


Sparkes echoed Connolly’s comments, adding that the hard work starts now as they look to improve on results the Australian Championships and  building into the World Championships.


“This isn’t the finish line, this is the stepping stone of what we can do in the next few weeks,” said Sparkes.


“We now have two weeks until our next connection point when we’ll meet in Sydney for the Sydney Open, which will be the next time our team is together, and from there we will have eight weeks where we’ll want to see the team get back to work and it’s an opportunity to improve on their performances from the Australian Championships.


“We want to see people improve on their results from heats to finals but also from Trials to Manchester… so there is plenty of work ahead of us in the next 100 days,” he said.


With plenty of depth in the team Sparkes said there is a lot to be excited about especially the world-beating Tim Hodge.


“Tim Hodge (the world record breaking 200IM swimmer) is going to be the busiest swimmer at the meet competing in five individual events and potentially two relays… he’s definitely one to watch out for,” she said.


The 2023 World Para Swimming Championships will be held in Manchester, UK from 31 July to 6 August.


Australian Dolphins Team for the 2023 World Para Swimming Championships:


Jesse Aungles (Cruiz, ACT)

Emily Beecroft (USC Spartans, QLD)

Ricky Betar (Cruiz, ACT)

Rowan Crothers (Yeronga Park, QLD)

Katja Dedekind (Yeronga Park, QLD)

Tom Gallagher (Somerset, QLD)         

Jasmine Greenwood  (Cruiz, ACT)

Brenden Hall (USC Spartans, QLD)

Ben Hance (St Andrews, QLD)

Tim Hodge (ACU Blacktown, NSW)

Jack Ireland (University of Queensland, QLD)

* Ella Jones (Kincumber Pacific Dolphins, NSW)

Jenna Jones (USC Spartans, QLD)

Ahmed Kelly (Yarra Plenty, VIC)

Alexa Leary (St Hildas, QLD)

Paige Leonhardt (USC Spartans, QLD)

Will Martin (Chandler, QLD)

Madeleine McTernan         (All Saints, QLD)

Jake Michel (Carina, QLD)

Lakeisha Patterson  (USC Spartans, QLD)

Col Pearse (Nunawading, VIC)

Alex Saffy (Bunbury, WA)

Keira Stephens (Southport, QLD)

Ruby Storm (St Andrews, QLD)

Rachael Watson (Chandler, QLD)

Poppy Wilson (Yeronga Park, QLD)


* Subject to Classification review in France in May.


Coaching Staff:

Kate Sparkes (Yeronga Park, QLD)

Harley Connolly (USC Spartans, QLD)

Casey Atkins (USC Spartans, QLD)

Jon Bell (St Hildas, QLD)

David Heyden (UQ Swim, QLD)

Misha Payne (ACU Blacktown, NSW)

Marty Roberts   (ACT Performance Hub, ACT)

Greg Towle (Swimming Australia, NSW)

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