Connolly to lead Paralympic Hub

Published 6:00pm 11 November 2022

Connolly to lead Paralympic Hub
Words by Nick Crockford

Harley Connolly, head coach of the Belgravia Swim Team at Burpengary, has been appointed by Swimming Australia as the new Head Coach of the Paralympic Hub at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

The former Lawnton coach joins the Spartans program with a decorated record, having coached athletes to a gold medal at every international benchmark event since being named to his first Australian Para team in 2013.

A member of two Paralympic campaigns, two Commonwealth Games teams and multiple World Championships, Connolly will now lead one of the flagship Paralympic programs in the country on the path to the Paris 2024 Games.

He starts the new role on December 2.

“Harley has been a valued member of our Australian teams for a decade now and will relish this opportunity to take on a significant leadership role within the Paralympic program,” Swimming Australia High Performance Director, Tamara Sheppard, said.

“Not only do the results speak to the quality of his coaching, he also enjoys the respect of both his athletes and fellow coaches by virtue of the way in which he lives the values that are central to the Dolphins environment.”

Connolly to lead Paralympic Hub
Belgravia team head coach Harley Connolly at training in Burpengary

Thrilled

“We are excited to see his vision for this program materialise on the path to Paris, and beyond.”

Connolly, who lives at Bribie Island, said he was humbled to be appointed to the role.

“It’s an opportunity to be better, to create a culture that empowers dreams to come true and enables athletes to perform when it matters the most, both for themselves and their country,” he said.

“I’m thrilled to lead this program and continue the work, with existing and new members, of guiding more athletes to their full potential with world class performances.”

His charges at Burpengary include multi-gold medallist Brenden Hall, three-time Paralympic gold medallist Lakeisha ‘Lucky’ Patterson and Paige Leonhardt, who won gold at the world titles this year.

Connolly to lead Paralympic Hub
Harley Connolly, second right with Kirralee Hayes, Lakeisha Patterson and Brenden Hall at a Cairns staging camp before the Tokyo Paralympics. Picture Wade Brennan Swimming Australia

'Best person'

Connolly also coaches open water internationals Piper Sanderson and Bailey Armstrong, who were both at world championships this year.

Lucky has trained with Connolly for seven years and was full of praise for her coach.

"Harley is certainly the best person for the job, and truly deserves this opportunity,” Patterson said.

“He has a deep desire to bring the best out of every athlete, as well as the person behind the athlete.”

“He has challenged me in the best ways possible to unleash my best, so I am certainly excited to follow him along this next chapter.”

“Like Harley embodies, hard work ethic and persistence creates gold."

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