Australia has a proud history in international sport, but did you know that our Para athletes are some of the worlds best, often competing in multiple sports and leading the way for professional athletes across the world? Here we learn about some famous athletes who are in the Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame, and some who are stil competing but will no doubt make it there one day! All of them are stellar role models and inspire us to get out there and play some sport.
1) Lousie Sauvage, OAM
Louise Sauvage played all sorts of sports when she was young, swimming at three years of age, and competing in wheelchair sports by the age of eight. She took up wheelchair racing at 15 and would go on to become one of the Australia's greatest athletes. In her first ever IPC World Championships in 1990 she won gold AND broke a new world record. This was just the start. Sauvage has too many highlights to name, but they include nine gold and four silver Paralympic medals across every distance from 100m to 5000m, as well as many prestigious road race titles, including four Boston marathons and two Berlin marathons.
As a result of her outstanding sporting success, Sauvage was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, and was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame and the Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame. Sauvage has been instrumental in helping to give athletes with a disability the profile they deserve and earning the same level of respect as their able bodied counterparts.
2) Dylan Alcott, OAM
Dylan Alcott's name is synonymous with Australian sport.
In 2008 Alcott won a Paralympic gold medal, and in 2012 a silver medal with Australia's wheelchair basketball team the Rollers. At the 2016 Paralympics, Alcott won a second gold Paralympic medal, this time in wheelchair tennis! His tennis career has since taken off, and in 2019 Alcott was the first man to win the inaugural Wimbledon quad wheelchair singles championship, as well as the Australian open and the French Open Championships. This means that for 2019, Dylan Alcott holds all Grand Slam singles titles, and a total of nine Grand Slam singles trophies all up. We could go on and on.
Off the sporting field Alcott has also excelled across a number of fields. He set up the Dylan Alcott foundation, a charity that aims to help "young Australians with disabilities gain confidence, fulfill their potential and achieve their dreas... by eliminating the barriers of entry to get involved in sport and study". He also won a Silver Logie for Best New Talent for his work hosting the TV show 'The Set'. We don't think we could love Dylan Alcott any more.
3) Ellie Cole, OAM
It’s not just Ellie’s outstanding swimming success that makes her a true Australian inspiration, but her courageous story, her unrivalled sense of humour, wonderful humility, and never-say-die attitude. At age three, Ellie’s right leg was amputated after she suffered a life-threatening sarcoma cancer. Eight weeks later she was in the pool as a form of rehabilitation, and she never looked back. After years of hard work and training, at the 2012 Paralympic games Cole won four gold medals in swimming, and in 2016 she won medals in all six of her events, after a double shoulder reconstruction. In 2020, Ellie Cole is looking to defend her title at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Ellie Cole wsa also listed in the Westpac 100 Women of Influence and uses her notoriety and influence to inspire.
4) Kurt Fearnley, AO
What hasn't Kurt Fearnley achieved? Over a 20 year career, he has won over 30 marathons, three Paralympic gold medals and two Commonwealth Games gold medals. He won the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race with Investec Loyal in 2012, and completed the Kokoda Track to raise awareness for men's health in 2009. Kurt Fearnely is also a powerful disability advocacy and invovled in a number charitable initiatives, as well as on boards as diverse as the Australian Paralympic Committee to the NSW Australia Day Council.
Kurt Fearnley shows that the sky is the limit for anyone who wants to have a go and who will never give up.
5) Danni Di Toro
Danni Di Toro has been to the Paralympic Games an incredible six times! Just one year after she became a paraplegic when a wall collapsed on her, Danni Di Toro made her international debut in wheelchair tennis. She went on to win Paralympic silver and bronze medals, 10 Australian Open titles and many other Grand Slam titles. Di Toro then turned her attention to Para-table tennis and made the Australian Paralympic team for her new sport in 2016. At these Paralympic Games she was made co-captain of the Australian Paralympic Team with Kurt Fearnley!
Like many of our other heroes, Di Toro has also been a trail blazer away from competition. She was appointed as Paralympics Australia's Athlete Engagement and Wellbeing Officer and Vice-Chairperson of the Athlete Commission.
These outstanding athletes have all achieved greatness in their sport of choice, and used their success to increase the profile of people with disabiliites and inspire the next generation of Australian sporting heroes. If you feel inspired and want to get involved in a sport, check out our Find an Activity Page to find heaps of different inclusive sports near you.
Want to read some more inspirational stories? Meet the AAA Play Ambassadors, a diverse and passionate group of athletes who haven't let their disability stand in the way of their passion for sport and recreation. https://aaavic.org.au/ambassadors
Credit to https://www.paralympic.org.au/australian-paralympic-hall-of-fame/, https://www.athletics.com.au/hall-of-fame-directory/louise-sauvage/, https://dylanalcottfoundation.com.au/, http://elliecole.com.au/about, https://www.kurtfearnley.com/, https://www.paralympic.org.au/blog/athlete/danni-di-toro/