Paralympian turns Games Shaper
An Australian Paralympic Champion, Stephen Eaton OAM knows the value volunteers have on an athlete’s experience, that’s why at GC2018 he decided to become one.
Competing in discus and shot put, Eaton won bronze in the men's Discus F32–33 event at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, silver in the men's discus at the 1998 IPC Athletics World Championships and gold at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in the men's discus F34 event.
He knows how important volunteers are for major events and it’s for that exact reason he decided to become a Games Shaper at GC2018.
“Ever since I finished my career as a Paralympic athlete, I always wanted to try the other side of the fence as a volunteer, coach” Eaton told GC2018.com
“So, when the Commonwealth Games came up I thought why not give it a go, so here I am.”
Eaton's role at the Games was as a fleet volunteer, ensuring athletes, officials and visitors got where they needed to go.
Which was a bit of a surprise for the the 42-year-old who was born with cerebral palsy, and therefore requires a wide range of driver adaptions including hand controls, pedal modifications and seat modifications when driving.
“There’s a lot of cost and work to go into doing all the modifications for the car,” Eaton said
“I thought I’d be working in a stadium as far as crowd control with athletics or something like that.
“To become a driver and helping athletes and people get around from venue to venue is a big honour.”
Growing up in Toowoomba, Queensland, Eaton was introduced to athletics as a way to help with his coordination difficulties.
But as his disability started to worsen, he pivoted towards the field events, mainly shot put and discus.
“Back as a kid I was able to walk 100 per cent of the time, so they thought athletics would be the sport,” Eaton said.
“So, I was introduced to athletics and over the years as my disability got worse I started to do the throwing side of things.”
Reflecting on his career, Eaton fondly remembers competing at a home Olympics.
Not just because he broke a world record and won a gold medal, he admits that was incredible, but because he was the least favourite to win.
“I only did discus in Sydney and was lucky enough to go out there and break the world record, set a new world record and walk away with a Gold medal,” he said.
“To not really be recognised as a medal threat was a big surprise and then to walk away with a medal the day after competing was a bit of a shock, but in a way a big honour to all the people who had helped me along the way.
“So, to have family and friends living in Sydney, I was able to have a lot of my family and friends in the crowd cheering me on.”
Living in Brisbane, Eaton currently works with a number of programs for junior athletes, aiding them to achieve their goals in their sporting career.
A significant part of his life, Eaton knew his role as a Games Shaper was just as important, especially due to the impact sport has had on his life.
“It’s going to be a bit of an experience going to all the Commonwealth Games venues and seeing flags and people from all over the world representing their countries," Eaton said.
“I’ve always wanted to help coaches, athletes with their sport so in a way I’m doing that.
“I’m helping people with the sport and getting to venues."
More than 15,000 volunteers played a crucial role in shaping the games experience for athletes, officials and spectators and welcoming the world to the Gold Coast.