Ryley Batt’s mob is finally coming back together.
Batt and fellow Australian Paralympic team captain Danni di Toro were among 156 athletes and officials who flew to Tokyo on Wednesday night ahead of next Tuesday’s opening ceremony.
It will be Batt’s fifth Paralympics as a member of the Steelers, who aim to become the first wheelchair rugby team to win three-successive gold medals at the Games.
While Batt was looking forward to reuniting with his Steelers teammates – the whole team has not been in the same place since March last year – they have had mini-camps and other catch-ups.
For Batt, the much bigger excitement is seeing the whole team assemble, with another charter flight heading to Tokyo on Friday night.
“It’s going to be like we saw them (Steelers) yesterday. What I’m really excited about as co-captain is just to see this whole team come together,” he said.
“We don’t get to see these other sports … in between Games, so it’s really good to get the mob back together.
“Yes, we have our own individual sports to compete in and we want to do our best, but it’s also just being part of this amazing mob and experiencing the Games.”
While di Toro was co-captain in Rio, Batt takes over his role from Paralympic legend Kurt Fearnley.
He and Fearnley are friends and Batt has picked his brains about the role.
“I know he’s just a phone call away if I need anything,” he said.
“The pride I have to be co-captain of this team and being handed that role from the great man Kurt Fearnley, it’s something I wasn’t after in life.
“But it’s pretty special.”
Batt sees his role as making sure every Australian Paralympian, regardless of their different sports, feels part of the one national team.
“Off the court, just being that friendly person. Obviously it’s going to be difficult with masks on, cruising around and smiling at people when they can’t see your smile, but I’m up for the challenge,” he said.
On the court, Batt and his fellow Steelers are on a three-peat mission.
“There’s no other athlete competing in these Games that’s won a (wheelchair rugby) gold medal,” he said.
“So it’s something pretty special, we have that experience.”