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'Life-changing': academic's new leadership role as wheels turn on Paralympic career

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A Sunshine Coast medal-winning athlete and respected academic has described her major leadership role in the upcoming Paris 2024 Paralympic Games as “such an honour”.

Dr Bridie Kean has been named Australian Team Deputy Chef de Mission for next year’s Games.

The appointment marks the first time in almost a decade that a Paralympian has been appointed to the crucial position.

The title comes with the responsibility of leading the Australian Paralympic team members when they compete in the 2024 Paralympic Games.

Dr Kean was a member of the Gliders women’s wheelchair basketball team that won the bronze medal at Beijing in 2008 and silver at London in 2012.

She has a Master of Public Health and completed a PhD on the balance between sport and study for para-athletes, and chairs the Sunshine Coast 2032 Legacy Plan Community Reference Group.

Dr Kean was selected from a strong field of applicants to become the first Deputy Chef de Mission with experience as a Paralympian since former swimming champion Paul Bird filled the role at Rio 2016.

The University of the Sunshine Coast lecturer said being part of the Paralympic movement was life-changing.

“To be given the opportunity to contribute back to it through this position is such an honour,” Dr Kean said.

“I really want to get it right, learn as much as I can and, I guess, provide that lived experience to the leadership group about how we can best support our Paralympic team.”

Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said Dr Kean continued to do her country and the local community proud through her professional and sporting endeavours.

“My congratulations go to Dr Kean for her appointment in this important and esteemed role,” he said.

“We are very lucky to have Bridie not only as a member of our community, but as the chairperson of our Sunshine Coast 2032 Legacy Plan Community Reference Group.

“This role calls on her Paralympic expertise to secure a real and valued impact for everyone, before, during and long after the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and her appointment as the Chef de Mission will only add value to this role.”

The Paris Paralympic Games will start on August 28, 2024, and include 549 events across 22 sports, with 4400 athletes from 184 National Paralympic Committees.

The Games are expected to be watched by more than three million people.

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