Paralympic Tales from Tokyo

Siobhan Crawshay is the parent of a Prep student at Our Holy Redeemer Primary School.  She has recently returned from the Paralympic Games in Tokyo and shares her experiences as part of the team supporting the athletes…

Being part of a Paralympic Team is always a privilege, even as a staff member. However, with the effect that Covid-19 has had around the world in the last 18 months, the Australian Paralympic Team experience in Tokyo was unique and felt a little bit more special. There was a great sense of gratitude from the athletes – that they felt lucky to be there – while their families and loved ones watched from home. The relief that the Games had actually taken place was palpable, as these athletes had been preparing for them through very uncertain times and after the postponement in 2020. 

I write this from my hotel room in Melbourne, where I am quarantining after the Games. I am counting down the days until I can see my three beautiful kids and husband, my family and friends, and am feeling somewhat guilty that I have been away for a few weeks during what has been a long winter again for Melburnians. Luckily, we have a very supportive village around us.   

A dietitian’s role at the Games is usually a busy one – snacks and sports foods are distributed across the team, meals are provided in specific situations where it is of benefit to the athlete and to their performance, and nutrition guidance is provided as needed, particularly in navigating the dining hall. However, the role grew immensely a few months ago when our medical staff assessed high-risk points at the Games. The Performance Team decided that avoiding the Village Dining Hall would significantly reduce our risk of being exposed to Covid-19. 

Preparing and executing a food service plan for our team of 350 people was a huge undertaking. We sent all non-perishable foods over from Australia in shipping containers with our team freight, which would form the basis of breakfast each day, as well as snack foods and meal alternatives. We worked closely with a caterer on the ground in Tokyo to come up with a suitable menu that was delivered to the Village each day. We also had perishable foods such as yoghurts, bread, boiled eggs, cheese, and fresh fruit and salad options delivered, which complemented our meal service.

Heating 350 meals each night in microwaves was one of the biggest challenges we had, but we managed to pull it off, and everyone was well-fuelled for the Games! Having a group of supportive individuals for a project such as this is essential, and I couldn’t have asked for a better team. I had the privilege of working with another sports dietitian on the ground in Tokyo, who was positive and energetic, and the whole Performance Team rolled up their sleeves and helped at every opportunity. 

The energy and passion behind the scenes at a Games is something that I love so much. It is addictive. It is what keeps me going until the early hours of the morning, and what keeps me coming back for these tough Games campaigns. That, and of course the honour I feel in being able to contribute in some small way to the success of our Paralympic athletes. 

During a time in which Australians may be feeling a sense of hopelessness, frustration and loneliness, I hope that these Paralympic Games and the efforts of our wonderful athletes provided some joy to households across the nation. They certainly felt the support of the Australian people while they were competing in Tokyo. Their athletic pursuits were wonderful, but it is their resilience and their determination that amazes me and makes me so proud to work with them. They each come with an incredible story and are a credit to our nation. 

By Siobhan Crawshay
Nutrition Lead for the Australian Paralympic Team in Tokyo


Image:  Dylan Alcott, Gold medal winner in Quad Singles Wheelchair Tennis, with Siobhan Crawshay


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Bec Over

Great window to behind the scenes and some of what fuels our athletes performance, thanks so much for sharing your experience and work Siobhan.
Dylan Alcott fan here too!

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Yolanda Torrisi

What a lovely story behind the scenes of the paralympics. Thanks for sharing this. No wonder our Aussie team did so well - they were well fed by you. Great work.

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