Image: Tristram Peters, UQ Journalism/Arts student and wheelchair athlete. Credit: Ellie Freeman.

As the Australian Socceroos hope to qualify for the World Cup, athlete Tristram Peters is hoping to compete internationally in the Powerchair Football Championships.

Powerchair football looks similar to soccer. Players move the ball using a bull bar attached to electric wheelchairs.

In October, Queensland is competing in the National Championships for powerchair football against other states. Through championships players will be selected for the international team to complete in Japan.

“Queensland is putting all their effort into that,” Tristram said.

“We’re training hard. We’re looking forward to the championships in October, and the possibility of some of our guys going overseas.”

The bull bar and ball Tristram uses to play Power Chair Football

The bull bar and ball Tristram uses to play Power Chair Football

Tristram has a muscular condition called spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and uses an electric wheelchair. He says he was fortunate that his condition affected him at such a young age because he’s used to it.

“For me, this is normal,” Tristram said. “This is everyday life.”

Tristram’s sporting career started when he attended a muscular dystrophy camp as a 6-year-old, where he had the opportunity to experience electric wheelchair sports.

Now, the 22-year-old plays soccer, hockey, rugby league and powerchair football for Queensland.

Tristram was selected to compete in the first Australian team.

“It’s something that any sportsperson aspires to, so it was a major, major thrill,” he said.

As well as the thrill of the game, Tristram says team wheelchair sports is a great way to network with other people with disabilities.

“I think that’s really important, because so often when you’re first diagnosed you can feel like the only one,” he said.

“Growing up to meet older guys who’ve been through the same experiences was an enormous support to me.”

The Paralympics is arguably the most well-known sporting event for athletes with a disability. Yet Tristram said media coverage of the event – in comparison to the Olympics – is “not at the forefront.” But there’s hope for the future.

“I think it’s slowly improving, especially with disability care – or what was the NDIS – gaining political momentum,” Tristram said.

However, Tristram wants to challenge current public perception of athletes with disabilities.

“I think people look at the sports and define the people that play it as inspirational and all that sort of stuff,” Tristram said.

“I don’t quite agree with that. I read a quote by a paralympian who said that at the end of the day, they just want to be valued for being competitive. That’s what’s important, not the cliché. Playing sport is such an important part of Australian culture… To be given the same opportunity is fantastic.”

With ambitions to soon finish his dual degree in journalism and arts, Tristram hopes to promote wheelchair sports by partnering up with an organisation working with young people with disabilities.

“So many people who are recently diagnosed aren’t aware that these sports exist, and I think it’s a tremendous thing for young kids to participate in,” Tristram said.

“Team sports are great for character-building.”

Listen to the full interview with Tristram talking about here:

View a YouTube clip of Tristram playing for Australia against Japan, filmed by the Japan Power Football Association.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.

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