Created by Lachlan McKinnon in partnership with Victorian Institute of Sport this inspiring documentary addresses the issue of disability of sport. The VIS Road to Rio series focuses on elite VIS athletes striving to achieve their goal of competing at the 2016 Rio Olympic & Paralympic Games. The 12 part documentary series profiles one athlete or team sport each month leading up to the world’s biggest sporting event.

Has creating a web series about disability in sport sparked any change in the attitude towards the issue? How?
I was an elite athlete with the Victorian Institute of Sport for a few years ago so I was well acquainted with disability in sport. The VIS prides itself on providing equal opportunities to people of all demographics so we trained with aspiring Paralympic athletes on a daily basis. If anything, it has only confirmed in my own mind the fact that they work just as hard and face hurdles that are just as difficult, if not more so, to overcome than any able-bodied equivalent in elite sport.

Do you think there is an opportunity for further education about disability in sport, whether through web series production or other ways?
Yes there needs to be greater educational opportunities to inform the general public about disability sport. In particular, it’s important to dispel some of the misnomers out there about the quality of the competition and what these inspirational men and women can and cannot achieve. One such issue is what the word ‘Paralympics’ actually means; it has nothing to do with paraplegia or being paralysed as that is only one form of disability, instead it means the event runs parallel to the Olympic Games.

What (and/or who) inspired your series?
I have combined my dual passions of documentary filmmaking and elite sport for a few years now. In 2013 I produced a web series called Unsinkable: The Race to Recovery on elite rower John Linke who was returning from a career-threatening leg injury and aspiring to race for Australia. I worked in conjunction with the VIS to put the production together and it had a great reception amongst the global rowing community and general public. We discussed the possibility of making a follow up series on John as the 2016 Rio Olympics drew closer (John unfortunately missed out on selection in the Australian Olympic rowing team but made a successful comeback from injury and continues to compete today), but instead made a series that focused on the VIS athletes aspiring to achieve their goals of competing at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We released the first episode one year out from the Rio opening ceremony and since then have published one episode each and every month on a different athlete/team sport.

How do you reach your audience?
We publish the episodes via the official VIS YouTube channel and Facebook page. The VIS social media channels have a combined following of 13,000+ and we work in conjunction with the State, federal and international sporting communities in focus for each episode to share our content. We are pleased to say that the ten episodes released to date have had 200,000+ views on social media and are also broadcast on Melbourne digital television through Channel 31.

What’s special or different about your series?
It aims to give a voice to people who are the last bastion of elite, amateur athletes in the world. They don’t do it for money and if they’re lucky find themselves under the Australian banner as the centre of attention for two weeks every four years. They’re just like you and me in most facets of life but with one extraordinary gift that makes them one of the best in the world at something. It’s about time their stories got told.

What do you want audiences to take away from your series?
Don’t judge a book by its cover. As they ride past you on the road, or swim past you in the pool you may be inclined to think they’re just robotic super-humans. But delve a little deeper and you’ll find that they all have a unique and interesting story to tell with motivation to burn and a desire to achieve the loftiest of personal dreams. See their stories for yourself and when you’re watching the Olympics in August and the Paralympics in September you may just spot someone who you know a little more about than most.

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