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Remote control car racing challenging definition of 'sport'

Sophie Meixner, Monday November 6, 2017 - 06:09 EDT
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Luke Simmons loves remote control racing because the activity does not discriminate on disability. - ABC

When is a sport not a sport?

That's the question facing a passionate group of remote control car racing enthusiasts in Mackay, Queensland, who are still getting over the effects of Cyclone Debbie in March.

After sustaining $9,500 worth of damage to their track, shade sails, and loudspeaker system during the weather event, the club was denied cyclone recovery funding because it was not considered a 'sport' by the Queensland Government.



Their rejection was based on reasoning that the activity did not fall into the definition of sport as "a human activity involving physical exertion".

The club has managed to raise most of the money needed through fundraising but was forced to cancel its annual Mackay Cup, which draws up to 60 competitors to the region, because repairs could not be completed in time.

And they have started a push for remote control car racing, which is growing in popularity around the world, to be recognised as a sport.

Adrenaline rush for all abilities



Luke Simmons used to love riding motorbikes before a swimming pool accident in 2003 left him a quadriplegic.

Now remote control car racing is his adrenaline rush and his cars reach speeds of around 80km/hr, although the current world record is 325km/hr.

He said remote control car racing was one of few competitive activities where every player was on the same level, no matter their physical condition.

"I can't drive anymore; that's why I really like this because you can still get out and do something, it's a bit physical," Mr Simmons said.

"It makes it really fun being able to race against able-bodied people.

"There's no other sport where I can compete at the same level and be competitive."



Rehabilitative benefits

Controlling the cars has therapeutic benefits for Mr Simmons because his accident left him without full hand function.

"It makes my hands a lot stronger which helps me in other parts of everyday life," he said.

"My dexterity has definitely improved since I've been doing it."

Mr Simmons said while he was rehabilitating in hospital, therapists would put marbles, springs, coins, and other odd-shaped items into Chinese food containers and encourage him to try and pick them out.

He said working on his remote control car is the same thing, "just a lot more fun".



Sport encourages participation

Mr Simmons said what he liked most about racing was his ability to be involved in as an equal.

"There are no other sports around that I can actually participate in, and get involved in and be on the committee," he said.

"And [I can] try and drive it and try and get to a level where I can compete against able-bodied people of all ages.

"I think it's a sport; it's definitely a sport for me. The only other sport I can really play is wheelchair bocce but it doesn't interest me at all.

"You could do video games but I don't really find them that entertaining.

"If you can hold a remote you can race."



World titles in Perth

Club president Greg West said the organisation was pushing for more recognition from local councils and state governments.

"I don't think it's well-recognised ... but we're trying to get our sport recognised and get more people involved because it's a great family-orientated sport," he said.

"The world titles are actually going to be held in Australia next year, in Perth, so you're going to have 500 of the best drivers all over the world coming to Perth.

"It is a sport, if there are titles, national titles, Queensland titles, North Queensland titles.

"We've got a governing body, we all have to pay our insurances.

"I believe there are over 200 clubs in Australia and if you work out [that] each club's got 20 to 150 members, there's a lot of remote control car enthusiasts out there."


- ABC

© ABC 2017

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