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CQU alumni targets Paralympic Games medal

Published:28 July 2021

Paralympian Joel Coughan competing for Australia

Paralympian Joel Coughan

At only eight-years-old, CQU alumni and Rockhampton local, Joel Coughlan, started competing in table tennis. Little did he know that today he would be representing Australia at the Paralympic Games.

Joel was a national table tennis athlete and working as a labourer in an industrial workshop in Rockhampton when he was severely injured in a workplace accident in 2007. Half a tonne of mining equipment fell from a forklift and left him to face 21 surgeries, skin grafting, renal dialysis and a tendon transfer.

After countless hospital visits and a gruelling rehabilitation program, Joel had returned to the game.

“After the accident I was still in hospital and had never thought of Para sport,” he said.

“It wasn’t until I started playing again that I knew I would return despite the accident.

“I received a phone call from Brisbane coach Sue Stevenson, who had just started with the Para squad. She had been following my story and asked if I would be interested in joining her team.”

Joel has been in the Australian squad since 2009. Since then, he has watched the team flourish and he is confident they will bring home a medal at the Paralympics.

At the start of August Joel will fly to Melbourne to join his fellow squad members. On August 18, they fly to Tokyo with the games commencing from 24 August.

Not only is he passionate about his table tennis career, after the accident, Joel said he found himself interested in workplace health and safety and enrolled in a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety with CQUniversity.

“Once I had recovered from the accident, I had to ensure no one else goes through what I had been through,” he said.

“I enrolled into the course with CQUni because I had the freedom to study online while working full time and competing for Australia. The course provided me with the skills I needed to progress in my career.

“My teacher, Frank Bogna, was very knowledgeable and he supported me throughout my studies.

“I would like to undertake a course in Business Management and really advance in my career.”

Since completing his studies in 2015, Joel has been balancing work, training and his family life. He said it has been the hardest part of his schedule leading up to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

“It is often difficult to manage your time to ensure you can handle all the tasks that you have set for yourself,” he said.

“I would have to thank my beautiful wife for all of her support and understanding over the years whilst working and training.”

In addition to being a talented athlete, Joel is working as a Sales and Service Manager in Rockhampton and has an 18-month-old son named Augie. Once he returns from Tokyo he said he will reassess what direction he would like his life to go, but for now he is focussing on his family and bringing home a medal.