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Speech at the launch of the London 2012 Paralympic Team, Canberra

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Well, friends after four years the preparation and the hard work are ending.

The countdown’s on, London 2012 is now just an airline flight away.

And of course, for all these years, all, these months, every day, you’ve trained as individuals.

But today, with this official announcement, you become a team.

A team that bears the highest honour to which any sportsperson can aspire - you get to wear the green and gold and compete in our country’s name.

Selection in this team means many things, but above all it means this.

You are the fastest, the strongest, the best - 161 athletes who have been found worthy above all your colleagues and peers.

I know you will pile up a formidable medal tally, just as you and your mates have done before at Beijing and the Games before that.

We’re looking forward to hearing that Australian national anthem time and time and time again.

But our cheers won’t just be for the success of our country.

As Australians, we will also be cheering for your efforts and your victories, and the determination you have each shown in individual journeys.

Of course, these journeys began long before today.

They started in your backyard, your local park or the high school gym, where the joy of sport captured your hearts and imaginations.

Your journeys continued through the setbacks and the victories of district meets, state knockouts and national championships; through injuries, gruelling fitness tests and countless early morning training sessions.

And through your passion and persistent hard work, these journeys have brought you here to the honour of representing your country at the highest level of world sporting competition.

Now of course, it’s Britain we’re talking about, so you’ll have to put up with a fair bit of bad weather and bad food.

I’m a ten pound Pom, so I’m able to make jokes like that.

But truly, I think our UK hosts have worked hard over the past seven years to present a Games that will be professional, friendly and welcoming, with great venues in one of the world’s top sporting cities, which is also the place where the Paralympic movement had its beginnings back in 1948, so in that sense it’s a homecoming as well.

I know you’ll do great things in London, and if I can give just one quick plug to the work that we’ve been doing with you, I’m proud of the $13 million of funding we’ve provided this financial year plus the initial funding of $400,000 for the Green and Gold Project to strengthen ties between Paralympians and the Australian Institute of Sport.

As well as supporting the wheelchair rugby team to attend the final competition in North America before the Games.

We’ve also got our eyes on Rio, I’ve just returned from there, with initial support for the development of future coaches and support staff in preparation for the next Games in Brazil.

All that talk about funding and support really means one thing - the Australian people are with you.

And I don’t think there’s a single taxpayer out there who would begrudge a single cent.

Before we go, I just want to mention one more thing that’s close to my heart, the Prime Minister’s Paralympic Challenge, which commenced in May and will run all the way up to your closing ceremony.

The Challenge gives kids the opportunity to try a range of your sports, get active and healthy, and perhaps even share the same dream you have.

The dream that one day they will enter a great stadium in a great city under an Aussie flag cheered and admired by millions and join the ranks of the world’s best.

In a few short weeks, that’s exactly what you will be doing.

And whether we’re in the stands at that stadium or in our lounge rooms at home, Australians will be watching for that flash of green and gold racing through the water, or on the court, or on the track.

And we’ll understand why the Olympics and Paralympics go inseparably together because they are both about a commitment to excellence and being the best that you can possibly be.

So thank you for your hard work, for your commitment.

Congratulations on your selection and good luck in these final weeks of preparation.

A proud and a grateful nation is just waiting for the moment we get to see you shine.

Thank you very much.