Mining accident did not stop Joel chasing Paralympic dream
ROCKHAMPTON'S Joel Coughlan lost several toes in a work-related mining accident and underwent 21 surgeries but he hasn't let that stand in the way of achieving a dream.
Next week the 31-year-old table tennis player will be aiming to make his first Australian Paralympic team when he contests the Japan Para Open.
"It's a big tournament because it's around the same time of the year, in the same city (Tokyo), as the Paralympic Games will be next year,” Coughlan said.
"There's a bit of a process to make the Aussie team, you've got to meet a lot of criteria, but good results (at the Japan Para Open) will be a big step towards making that team which is the end goal for me.”
Coughlan, who has been playing table tennis since he was eight, has represented his country before but said making the Paralympic team had been an ambition following his accident.
In 2007, about half a tonne of mining equipment fell off a forklift onto Coughlan's right foot.
That resulted in the amputation of three-and-a-half toes and following 21 surgeries, Coughlan to this day has no ankle function and still experiences muscle complications.
"In winter it (ankle) still gets painful after long tournaments and long training sessions,” he said.
Coughlan still works in the mining industry as a sales and services manager for an engineering company based in Rockhampton, servicing the likes of Blackwater, Moura, Clermont and the Bowen Basin.
He said the Japan Para Open was "right up there” with the biggest table tennis tournaments that he has competed in.
"The best players in the world who want to be at the Paralympics will be there.
"I've competed at Oceania Championships in Hong Kong, that was quite big, and I've competed in a few events in Europe but this is the closest I've been to qualifying for the Paralympics so it's exciting for me.”
Coughlan was perhaps destined to compete at this level given his long list of achievements in the able-bodied arena of his sport.
He contested his first National Titles at age 11 and has been an Australian Champion multiple times.
"This will be the first time I've been to Japan,” he said.
"Before the tournament I'll actually be doing a school demonstration there, just helping out Paralympics Australia to try and increase the awareness of Paralympic sports.
"My wife is flying over after the tournament so we can have a bit of a look around and some down time.”
The Japan Para Open 2019 will be held at the Minato City Sports Centre from August 1 to 3.