Two Australian para-athletes pose with gold and silver medals.

‘Ecstatic’ reaction as para-athlete Col Pearse claims Commonwealth Games gold

From a life-changing accident as a toddler to bravely leaving home to pursue his dream as a teenager, Col Pearse’s journey to Commonwealth Games glory – including training in a farm dam – has been anything but easy.

Hailing from Bamawm Extension, near Echuca, the para-athlete came first in the S10 100-metre butterfly race with a time of 59.61 seconds, defeating fellow Australian Alex Saffy and England’s James Hollis, who came in third.

Pearse’s first Commonwealth gold medal comes after he claimed bronze in the S10 men’s 100m butterfly in his Paralympics debut in Tokyo last year.

The 19-year-old’s mother, Teena Pearse, got up early and nervously waited for almost three hours to watch the race from home.

“I haven’t been asleep since three o’clock,” she said.

“I love watching him swim live… but being at home, [I’m nervous]I don’t know if the time’s changed.”

His excited mother made his three siblings wake up early to watch their brother race.

“I made all the kids get up, I didn’t let his 21-year-old brother go to work.

Pearse converted a dam at his family’s farm into a training pool when Victoria went into lockdown.(ABC News: Tyrone Dalton)

A nail-biting wait

Pearse had his right foot amputated from below the ankle as a two-year-old in 2005 after an accident involving a ride-on lawn mower on his family’s farm at Bamawm Extension.

Ms Pearce said he had been working hard on his turn, but his style was to turn on the speed in the second half of the race.

“He runs his own race for the first 50, then really brings it home for the last 50,” she said.

She said the win was a blur and that a delayed medal ceremony caused a bit of concern.

“The boys raced before the girls, then they did the girls’ medal ceremony, before they did the boys,” she said.

“Usually when medal ceremonies are held up, they’re under dispute … like someone’s been disqualified or something’s not right.

“So we were really anxious [but] he gave us a quick ring and said, ‘It’s all OK — we’re just going to do it after the 800m freestyle.'”

Ms Pearce said she’d be celebrating her son’s gold medal at home.

“We’re having visitors over tonight,” she said.

“Going to make some gold lollies and things — there’ll be lots of celebrating in this house.”

A man in a bright swimming cap competes in a race.
Col Pearse made his Paralympic debut in Tokyo last year, where he won a bronze medal.(Getty: Alex Pantling)

‘Something so brilliant’

Dot and George Pearse watched their grandson win gold from their Bamawm Extension home.

Dot said she was “absolutely ecstatic” about the victory.

“Not only for myself, but mainly for Col because he’s reached his ambition,” she said.

“He’s done himself proud, he’s done his family proud, he’s done Victoria proud, he’s done Australia proud … and he’s done the Paralympics proud.”

Dot said her grandson had made a lot of sacrifices since losing his foot, including leaving home at a young age to train in Melbourne.

“He left here when he was only 14,” she said.

“He had to leave his school, his friends, his family, his home, his pets, and he had to sacrifice a lot of holidays.”

The grandmother said Pearse had turned an unfortunate accident into a success story through hard work and dedication.

“How I look at it, if he hadn’t had that accident when he was two, he wouldn’t be where he is today,” she said.

“I don’t know where he would be.

“Just think how he has put a wonderful cover on the accident and made something so awful that happened to him into something so brilliant — such marvelous success and happiness for so many people.”

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