Winning the first adaptive division at a national CrossFit competition was the “icing on the cake” for wheelchair rugby champion Ryley Batt.

But his motivation for competing at the Down Under Championship in Wollongong last month was about a lot more than that.

“I felt very lucky to compete in the first adaptive division in Australia, I’m sure it’ll be a lot tougher later on,” Batt said.

“I think for people with disabilities it’s huge because with strength you get more ability and independence.”

Batt has inspired people to compete during a career which has spanned two decades.

“I think it’s absolutely unreal these days where even able-bodied athletes look up to Paralympians and so they should because we still train at that elite level,” he said.

Players bump into each other in a wheelchair rugby match.
Ryley Batt says people get more ability and independence with strength.(Jeff Crow: Sport the Library/AAP Image)

Batt was named most valuable player after Australia won the World Wheelchair Rugby Championship in Denmark in October.

He said it would be his last world championships but he would keep on in the sport.

“I definitely want to keep competing — I love representing Australia and it’s something you don’t want to take for granted,” he said.

Reflecting on the possibility of retiring at age 33, Batt said he didn’t want to stop while his body and mind “are still there”.

“I don’t want to be sitting back in 10 or 20 years saying ‘why didn’t I just play those extra couple years’?”

Australian Steelers Chris Bond and Ryley Batt with the trophy after winning the wheelchair rugby world championship final.
Australian Steelers Chris Bond and Ryley Batt celebrate the world championships win.(Supplied: Paralympics Australia)

His focus is now on the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris but he is also thinking about how he’s moving to the next stage of his career as a mentor and role model.

“If I can find some kids with a disability who need that extra push and change their life for the future, that’s a win in my eyes,” he said.

“It’s also about inspiring the next generation, it’s about showcasing our sport, showcasing our abilities, and build our sport of wheelchair rugby.”

Batt said he remembered being inspired in high school when Paralympian Tom Kennedy ran a wheelchair rugby program at the PCYC in his hometown of Port Macquarie in New South Wales.

Batt used a skateboard for mobility up to the age of 12.

He said he was finally able to accept his disability and transition to using a wheelchair after he discovered wheelchair rugby.

“I felt like — for once in my life — I was on the same level playing field as everyone else,” he said.

Ryley Batt in action for Australia
Ryley Batt is aiming for gold in Paris in 2024. (Supplied: Paralympics Australia)

He achieved his first podium win as the youngest competitor at age 15 at the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008, and won gold at both the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics consecutively with the Steelers.

The team placed fourth at the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2021.

Batt was proud of his achievements.

“Not only represent your country but then to be announced as captain of the wheelchair rugby team as well as co-captain of the Australian Paralympic team and flag bearer of the country at the opening ceremony,” he said.

“It just meant a lot and so was overwhelming to be looked upon by my peers as that leader and role model.

“I just wanted to lead by example and unite the team and show them the energy I put in as their leader and it worked – I really enjoyed being the leader of the team.”

Batt said he wanted to finish on a high note at the next Paralympic games and bring home a medal

“Hopefully it’s a gold,” he said.

In the meantine he said he would continue “inspiring kids with or without disabilities”.

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