8 informonline.org.au Feature Australian Paralympian Legends Daphne Hilton Daphne Hilton became a paraplegic after a horse-riding accident when she was 17. She would go on to be one of the most accomplished Australian athletes of all time. Hilton was the only woman in the 1960 Australian Paralympics team. Australia won ten medals in 1960 and six of them were Hilton’s. She won two gold medals in swimming, three silver in archery and athletics and bronze for shot put. Above: Daphne Hilton in 1964. More medals would follow at the 1964 and 1968 Paralympics. Across the three games, Hilton set a record that is unlikely to ever be broken. She won 14 medals in five different sports—athletics, swimming, archery, table tennis and fencing—across three Paralympic Games. An incredible feat. Kevin Coombs OAM Kevin Coombs’ contribution to raising the profile of athletes with a disability makes him an all-time great. Coombs’ was the first Indigenous athlete to represent Australia at either a Paralympics or an Olympics. He played wheelchair basketball at five Paralympic Games. He was captain of the Australian men’s wheelchair basketball team in 1972 and 1984 and he was captain of the Australian Paralympic Team in 1980. In 2016 Paralympics Australia created a special award named in his honour: the Uncle Kevin Coombs Medal for the Spirit of the Games Award. Above: Kevin Coombs OAM at the 1960 Paralympics opening ceremony. Louise Sauvage OAM Bursting onto the world stage at just 16, it was clear from the beginning that Louise Sauvage was going to be a star. Sauvage won nine gold medals and four silver medals at four Paralympic games between 1992 and 2004. At the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games, she won four gold medals and broke two world records. Sauvage changed wheelchair racing forever. She dominated the sport for more than decade and in doing so raised the profile of Paralympic athletes around Australia and the world. More than that, as one of the first professional athletes with a disability, Sauvage changed public perceptions of Paralympic sport and athletes. Above: Louise Sauvage OAM in action.
Feature informonline.org.au 9 Left: The 1964 Australian Paralympic team is addressed by George Bedbrook. A BREIF HISTORY OF The History of the Paralympics The beginning of the Paralympics as we know them today can be traced to one man and one hospital. Dr Ludwig Guttman and the Stoke Mandeville Hospital. In 1944, during WWII, the British Government asked Dr Guttman to open a centre for people with spinal injuries. Guttman believed strongly in rehabilitation for people with spinal injuries and in the possibility of integration with the wider community. One of the ways Guttman pursued rehabilition for people with spinal injuries was sport. In 1948, he took it one step further. On July 29th, as the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games was taking place, Guttman organised a competition for wheelchair athletes at the hospital. He called them the Stoke Mandeville Games. In these first games, 16 men and women took part. Four years later, in 1952, Dutch ex-serviceman joined, and the Stoke Mandeville Games became the International Stoke Mandeville Games which, by 1960, would be the Paralympics. The 1960 Rome Paralympics were the first Paralympic Games. There were 400 athletes from 23 countries competing and the games were no longer just for war veterans. The development and expansion of the games continued. By the 1976 games, the Paralympics were open to all athletes with disabilities, not just those using wheelchairs. In 1976, 1600 athletes for 40 countries competed. PARALYMPICS Australia’s involvement with the Paralympics is thanks to one man: Sir George Bedbrook. Bedbrook studied medicine at Melbourne University in Victoria. After graduating, he travelled to England where he spent some time at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital studying under Sir Ludwig Guttman. Back in Australia, and no doubt inspired by Guttman, Bedbrook established Australia’s first spinal injury centre in Perth in 1954. There, he revolutionised the treatment of spinal injuries in Australia. He included sport and exercise as part of rehabilitation programs for people with spinal injuries and held hospital sports day. In 1960, it was Bedbrook who arranged for an Australian team to go to the first Paralympics. Later, he would serve as the Team Leader and Medical Officer for the 1964 Paralympic Games in Toyko. From humble beginnings with only 16 athletes in 1948, the Rio Paralympics in 2016 featured 4342 athletes from 159 countries. They competed in 528 events across 22 sports. Below: Dr Ludwig Guttman with Dr Yutaka Nakamura. Both men were influential in the development of the Paralympics.