Having unofficially broken the 800m world record in February 2015, 21-year-old Torita Blake, who was born with cerebral palsy and vision impairment, is one of the most promising young athletes on the Australian Paralympic Team.
She first began participating in sport after watching Indigenous athlete Cathy Freeman win gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, an achievement she rates as her favourite sporting moments ever.
Competing in athletics from 2011, Torita was determined to qualify for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, contesting the 100m at the Australian Athletics Championships in Melbourne in 14.93 seconds despite excruciating leg pain. Incredibly, scans later revealed she had 11 bone fractures.
Making her Paralympic debut at London 2012, Torita competed in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. Although she didn’t medal, she says that she was proud to represent Australia in the green and gold and race in front of tens of thousands of fans.
At the 2015 Queensland Cup Championships Torita set herself the challenge of competing in a middle-distance race, the 800m. Her coach Wayne Leaver worked with her to improve her pace and she managed to break the world record in her first attempt. Unfortunately, the competition didn’t have any anti-doping regulations, meaning her record is unofficial.
Though hoping to achieve a podium finish at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Torita fell just short, crossing for fourth in the 400m with a time of 1:04.47.
Hailing from the Kamilaroi nation in the Moree region of NSW, Torita was invited to raise the Aboriginal flag at the Kedron Park State Emergency Centre during NAIDOC Week in 2012. She would like to continue to be an ambassador for Indigenous athletes and to complete a degree in Indigenous Studies.
In 10 years’ time Torita hopes to be a Paralympic gold medallist, still breaking world records, and a mentor to young athletes with a disability.