Why veteran Canberra coach Chris Nunn didn’t go to the Tokyo Paralympics

Tim Gavel 3 September 2021 17
Chris Nunn. Photo: Supplied.

Chris Nunn is a passionate advocate for the Paralympics. Photo: Supplied.

You would be hard-pressed to find somebody with greater passion for the Paralympics than Canberra coach Chris Nunn.

A veteran of eight Paralympic campaigns with the Australian team since 1988 in various roles, including coach, operations manager and chef de mission, he has been at the forefront of the acceptance of Paralympic sport into the mainstream.

He stepped away from individual athlete coaching in 2004 to focus on his swim-school business at MacGregor. When he sold the business in 2010, he returned to Paralympic Australia as the Performance Manager.

But his effort has broadened beyond Australia’s shores.


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Now 62, his attention is very much on coach development both in Australia and the Pacific.

“I’m not coaching individuals anymore. My focus for the past decade or so has been on developing and mentoring coaches. I work with 30 to 40 coaches in the Pacific Islands and I mentored coaches with the Australian team at the Tokyo Paralympics.”

Chris Nunn is making a huge difference in the Pacific in his role as project coordinator with the Oceania Paralympic Committee. Photo: Supplied.

Chris Nunn is making a huge difference in the Pacific as project coordinator with the Oceania Paralympic Committee. Photo: Supplied.

His role as project coordinator with the Oceania Paralympic Committee, in which he works with coaches and Paralympians from seven countries, has also provided him with perspective.

Five of the seven island countries couldn’t go to the Paralympics because of COVID restrictions and the costs associated with quarantine upon returning home from the Paralympics. For Chris, this highlights a considerable inequity.

“Millions of dollars have been provided to help the Australian team be as successful as they can possibly be with pre-Games training camps and the costs of quarantining on their return to Australia taken care of,” says Chris.

“The Australian athletes are funded to perform when they get to the Games. With Pacific Island teams, we couldn’t raise enough funds to get a team of four into two to four weeks of quarantine on the way home. If you watched the teams who performed well, they are from well-funded countries. There are the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.”


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It was part of the reason he decided not to go to the Tokyo Paralympics.

“The accreditation I had for the Games meant that I would have been restricted in face-to-face contact with athletes and coaches I have been mentoring. I would have spent the majority of time in hotel rooms in Tokyo.”

His decision not to go to Tokyo in many respects is a cry to help the poorer nations in our region.

“Some countries are struggling, but what we are doing is changing lives for people in the Pacific Islands through Paralympic sport. In many cases, it has resulted in children being accepted into schools and living normal lives, providing them with self-esteem through sport and getting jobs. That’s the disappointing thing about them not being in Tokyo. It’s an opportunity lost.”


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In Australia, talks about inequity are also gaining traction, and the disparity between Olympians and Paralympians when it comes to financial rewards.

Not taking away from this important discussion in the Australian context, Chris Nunn is seeking greater support for Paralympians in the Pacific so they can participate at the same level as other countries, such as Australia.

As he reminds us, the ability to change lives through sport in this region is more than evident. Let’s hope his efforts can be rewarded through greater support for our Pacific Paralympic community.


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17 Responses to Why veteran Canberra coach Chris Nunn didn’t go to the Tokyo Paralympics
smokeysteel smokeysteel 9:55 am 06 Sep 21

So true John Bell, thanks for explaining so well what Chris has achieved. And as everyone else has attested, he does it with positivity, passion and compassion. A great example to us all. I think Tim Gavel has unearthed a fan club with this great little story.

John Bell John Bell 10:38 pm 05 Sep 21

Chris Nunn was the coach catalyst at the Australian Institute of Sport who fired up the Paralympic athletic program. In the 1990s. Chris dragged the Para Athletics program up by the bootstraps from participation to elite performance perfection. Chris was a pimple on the bum of the athletics bureaucracy who grew the program and won the day. A game changer for the ages. He was The Man responsible for Australia's No.1 aths ranking in Sydney 2000 Paralympics. He gave athletes the confidence and belief to becomes true professionals, to emulate the very finest attributes of the world's best able bodied athletes . They could now find ways to use their different abilities to climb the same elite mountains. He established the Gold Standard of Australian international team protocol, where the Head Coach calls the shots in the best interests of athletes and staff. He set the standard of Australian elite performance that we saw in Tokyo 2021. A very very sad day when the Australian Paralympic Committee made the inexplicably shortsighted decision to cut this veteran from the draft. Take my hat off to you, Nunnster. A job so very well done💛💚❤️🖤

smokeysteel smokeysteel 9:20 pm 05 Sep 21

Hey Chris, I know of a half empty Institute of Sport with accomodation for visiting teams. Some modernisation and adaptations required but how awesome would it be to set that up as Oceania’s heart of Paralympian training. And what an amazing place that would be to work at. Just like when we both started at the AIS in 1990, but better ?

Amy Spence Amy Spence 9:16 pm 05 Sep 21

Michele Reaney great read

Natasha Mngr Natasha Mngr 6:26 pm 05 Sep 21

Do you remember this lecturer Hannah Martin? He was a legend! 🥰

    Hannah Martin Hannah Martin 7:39 pm 05 Sep 21

    Natasha Mngr I do! What a champ

    Beth Logan Beth Logan 10:53 pm 05 Sep 21

    Natasha Mngr his classes were so good! Informative and entertaining 😄

    Natasha Mngr Natasha Mngr 11:00 pm 05 Sep 21

    Beth Logan agree! Hope you are doing well! 💖

    Cheyanne Girvan Cheyanne Girvan 8:20 am 06 Sep 21

    Natasha Mngr still one of my favorite lecturers! Pretty sure that unit was how half of us met 😛 Hannah Martin Beth Logan

    Beth Logan Beth Logan 8:55 am 06 Sep 21

    I think so! Was it Intro to Coaching??

    Cheyanne Girvan Cheyanne Girvan 8:56 am 06 Sep 21

    Intro to Coaching Science 👌🏻

Ganesh Suppiah Ganesh Suppiah 5:02 pm 05 Sep 21

He’s a great man Frances Victoria

Jayne Denise Jayne Denise 1:06 pm 05 Sep 21

Great work Chris, I think many Aussies were shocked to hear the financial disparity between paralympians & reg Olympians.

Robina Jeffs Robina Jeffs 12:47 pm 05 Sep 21

Passion and commitment.

Ella Gotha Sean Ella Gotha Sean 12:02 pm 05 Sep 21

That's right 👉

Jessica En Bee Jessica En Bee 11:23 am 05 Sep 21

We met Chris when he brought Kings Swimming to Canberra. His understanding and acceptance of our kids and their needs is remembered 15 years later. Remarkable man.

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