Australia at the Paralympics

Australia at the
IPC code AUS
NPC Australian Paralympic Committee
Gold Silver Bronze Total
0 0 0 0
Summer appearances
Winter appearances

Australia has participated officially in every Summer Paralympics Games since its inauguration in 1960 and in the Winter Paralympics Games since 1980.

The Paralympic Games are held every four years, following the Olympic Games and are governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The Paralympic Games have been contractually tied to the Olympic Games since 2001, however, they have taken place at the same venues since the 1988 Seoul Summer Games and the 1992 Albertville Winter Games.[1]

In order to compete at the Paralympics, athletes must have an eligible impairment that leads to a permanent activity limitation, and athletes will compete in the classification appropriate to their impairment.[2] These impairments are physical, vision and intellectual impairments.

The Australian Paralympic Committee, established in 1990, is responsible for selecting and preparing the Australian Paralympic Teams for both the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. This committee assists with funding the athletes and competition in addition to talent identification.[3]

Many of Australia’s gold medals have come from Athletics,[4] a sport which has been popular amongst Australian Paralympic athletes, such as Tim Sullivan and Louise Sauvage.[5] The other sport from which many medals have come is Swimming.

Australia has hosted the Paralympic Games on one occasion in 2000.[6] Sydney, the capital city of New South Wales hosted the Summer Paralympics from 23 to 31 October 2000.[6] There were 3879 participants from 123 countries across 19 sports and 550 events.[6] Australia was the country to win the most medals with 149 medals overall.[7]

Summer Games

Daphne Ceeney and Elizabeth Edmondson shake hands after Edmondson won gold and Ceeney silver in the 50 m prone swimming event in Tokyo at the 1964 Summer Paralympic Games.

  Host country (Australia)

Medal Table [8]

Games Gold Silver Bronze Total Rank Competitors Officials Flag Bearer Opening Flag Bearer Closing
1960 Rome 3 6 1 10 7 11
1964 Tokyo 12 11 7 30 4 17 9
1968 Tel-Aviv 15 16 7 38 4 35 18
1972 Heidelberg 6 9 10 25 11 37
1976 Toronto 16 18 7 41 11 46
1980 Arnhem 12 21 22 55 14 53
1984 Stoke Mandeville /
New York
49 54 51 154 8 108
1988 Seoul 23 34 38 95 10 175 47 Paul Croft Rodney Nugent
1992 Barcelona 24 27 25 76 7 134 Terry Giddy Priya Cooper
1996 Atlanta 42 37 27 106 2 161 Elizabeth Kosmala Priya Cooper
2000 Sydney 63 39 47 149 1 286 148 Brendan Burkett Neil Fuller
2004 Athens 26 39 36 101 5 152 Louise SauvageMatthew Cowdrey
2008 Beijing 23 29 27 79 5 161 122 Russell Short Matthew Cowdrey
2012 London 32 23 30 85 5 160 Greg Smith Evan O'Hanlon
2016 Rio 22 30 29 81 5176 Brad Ness Curtis McGrath
Total 368 393 364 1125
Tony South receives his gold medal for the archery Albion Round in Tel-Aviv at the 1968 Summer Paralympics from the founder of the Paralympic movement, Ludwig Guttmann.
In Paralympic sport, Australia has been most successful in Athletics. Greg Smith gives the crowd a "thumbs up" after winning gold at the 800 m T52 final at the 2000 Summer Paralympic Games, in Sydney on Day 04.

Medals by Sport 1960–2016[4]

Sport Gold Silver Bronze Total
Athletics 153 157 158 469
Swimming 128 150 142 410
Cycling 37 31 28 96
Shooting 15 7 3 24
Lawn bowls 8 7 6 16
Archery 3 9 4 16
Weightlifting 3 3 4 10
Wheelchair tennis 1 4 3 8
Equestrian 3 1 5 9
Table tennis 2 3 3 8
Powerlifting 1 5 1 7
Wheelchair basketball 2 5 1 7
Sailing 4 2 1 7
Wheelchair rugby 2 2 0 4
Paracanoe 1 1 1 3
Rowing 0 3 0 3
Wheelchair fencing 0 1 1 2
Dartchery 1 1 0 2
Snooker 0 1 1 2
Judo 1 0 0 1
Triathlon 1 0 0 1
Boccia 0 0 1 1
Total 368 393 363 1124

Winter Games

Since Australia began competing in the Winter Paralympic Games in 1980, it has only sent competitors in Alpine Skiing and hence all medals won at the Winter Paralympics are in Alpine Skiing.[9]

Medal Table

Games Gold Silver Bronze Total Rank Competitors Officials Flag Bearer Opening Flag Bearer Closing
1980 Geilo 0 0 0 0 - 2
1984 Innsbruck 0 0 0 0 - 3
1988 Innsbruck 0 0 0 0 - 5
1992 Tignes-Albertville 1 1 2 4 12 5
1994 Lillehammer 3 2 4 9 9 6
1998 Nagano 1 0 1 2 16 4 James Patterson
2002 Salt Lake City 6 1 0 7 8 6 Michael Milton Bart Bunting
2006 Turin 0 1 1 2 13 10 Michael Milton Toby Kane
2010 Vancouver 0 1 3 4 16 11 Toby Kane Cameron Rahles-Rahbula
2014 Sochi 0 0 2 2 19 7 Cameron Rahles-Rahbula Ben Tudhope
Total 11 6 13 30

Summary of Australia's Involvement

Australian team in Singapore en route to Rome for the 1960 Summer Paralympics.

1960 Summer Paralympics

Athlete, Daphne Hilton (Ceeney) was Australia’s first ever swimmer who competed at the Rome 1960 Games.[10] This games were the only Paralympic Games in which Australia did not win a gold medal in athletics.[10]

1964 Summer Paralympics

With the games in Tokyo, Australia was able to send a large contingent of athletes as a result of the shorter than typical journey.[10] Australia placed fourth with a total of 31 overall medals; 12 gold medals, 10 silver medals and 9 bronze medals.

1968 Summer Paralympics

Australia placed fourth again, with 38 overall medals; 15 gold, 16 silver and 7 bronze.[11] Lorraine Dodd was an outstanding athlete at these games, setting three Swimming records for her class, all on the same day.

1972 Summer Paralympics

Australian won 25 medals - 6 gold, 9 silver and 10 bronze medals in six sports. Australia finished 11th on the gold medal table and 9th on the total medal table.[12] Elizabeth "Libby" Kosmala competed in her first Paralympics, and won a bronze medal in swimming in the Women's 3x50 m Medley Relay 2–4 event, and participated in other swimming and athletics events.[13]

1976 Summer Paralympics

The Olympic and Paralympic Games both aim to be apolitical; despite this, at the 1976 Paralympic Games, politics intruded into the games. Apartheid practices in South Africa brought controversy with the country’s invitation to and inclusion in the games. Australian athlete, Eric Russell took a stance against politics at the Paralympic Games when he refused his gold medal in the class 3 discus event as a protest. He later accepted the medal from Dr Guttman after a press conference, explaining his position.[11]

For the first time, television coverage of the Paralympics was broadcast daily to more than 600,000 viewers around the world.[10]

1976 Winter Paralympics

This Paralympic Games were the first Winter Paralympic Games. Australia was represented by one athlete, Ron Finneran; however, he was disqualified as his disability did not meet event classifications.[14]

The Australian Team at the 1980 Summer Paralympic Games, in The Netherlands.

1980 Winter Paralympics

This is the first Winter Paralympics that Australia competed in, but did not medal.[15] Australia had two competitors, Kyrra Grunnsund and Peter Rickards, who participated in Slalom and Middle Distance Alpine Skiing respectively.[16]

1980 Summer Paralympics

It was the 6th Summer Paralympic game in which Australia competed. Australia won 55 medals – 12 gold, 21 silver and 22 bronze medals. Australia competed in 10 sports and won medals in 6 sports. It finished 14th on the gold medal table and 9th on the total medal table.[17]

1984 Winter Paralympics

Australia did not win a medal, but was strongly represented by Rodney Mills in cross-country and Kyrra Grunnsund and Andrew Temple in the alpine events of slalom, giant slalom and downhill.[15]

The Australian amputee team at the 1984 New York Paralympic Games.

1984 Summer Paralympics

In 1984, Australia more than doubled its previous highest medal count with a tally of 143 medals.[18] For the first time, four Cerebral Palsy athletes and one "Les Autres" athlete participated in the Games. Each won medals: Robert Walden (swimming) won four gold medals, Terry Biggs (table tennis) won a gold medal, Lyn Coleman (cycling) won silver medal and Malcom Chalmers (swimming) won a gold, silver and two bronze medals.[19]

1988 Winter Paralympics

Australia sent five athletes; however, failed to medal.[4] These athletes were Michael Collins, Kyrra Grunnsund, Evan Hodge, Michael Milton and David Munk, who all competed in both men's downhill, men's giant slalom and men's slalom, except Munk who only competed in the latter two events.[20]

1988 Summer Paralympics

Australia competed in 16 events, achieving 23 gold medals in three sports, Athletics, Swimming and Lawn Bowls.[4] Overall, Australia received 95 medals, 23 gold, 34 silver and 38 bronze. Australia athletes broke eight records during the Games.[4]

1992 Winter Paralympics

Australia’s first ever gold medal at an Olympic or Paralympic Winter Games was won by Michael Milton when he won the LW2 Slalom event.[11] There are no accurate results for the Australian Paralympic team performances at Winter Games previous to 1992; however, it is known that no-one medalled for Australia until the 1992 Paralympics.[21]

Australian Team marching at the opening ceremony at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games

1992 Summer Paralympics

The Australian men’s swimming team was totally dominant in the pool, with Joseph Walker being the undoubted star winning nine gold medals (five individual, four relay) from nine events and setting two world records.[11]

Australian Paralympian Michael Milton at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer

1994 Winter Paralympics

Australia's most successful Winter Paralympic Games remain the 1994 Winter Paralympic Games, when five athletes took the podium on 9 different occasions.[22]

Australian men's wheelchair basketballer Troy Sachs as he passes the ball in the gold medal game against Great Britain at the 1996 Paralympic Games

1996 Summer Paralympics

Australia was ranked 2nd in the final medal table with 106 overall medals; 42 gold; 37 silver; 27 bronze. This success has been attributed to the introduction of the Australian Paralympic Committee’s Paralympic Preparation Program.[18] Australia’s team was half that of the host nation who lead the final medal table.[18]

In the Wheelchair Basketball match, Australia vs Great Britain, Troy Sachs recorded the highest number of individual points scored.[23] Sachs scored 42 points in a single game for Australia at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games, which remains the highest ever individual score by a basketballer at the Paralympic Games. He is also Australia’s most awarded basketballer with two gold and one silver medal.[10]

At the Atlanta Summer Paralympics, there was the largest athletics away gold medal haul to date of 19 Gold medals.[10]

1998 Winter Paralympics

Australia collected two medals, one gold and one bronze, from the 1998 Games after sending four competitors. James Patterson competed in Alpine Skiing, winning gold in the men's downhill and bronze in men's slalom.

Louise Sauvage in action at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney

2000 Summer Paralympics

The 2000 Sydney Summer Paralympic Games are Australia’s most successful Paralympic games to date. In the final medal tally, Australia was ranked first with 149 overall medals; 63 gold, 39 silver, and 47 bronze medals.[6][11] Australia was represented by their largest team ever. The success of the team combined with extensive media coverage went a long way to changing public attitudes towards Paralympic athletes and understanding them as elite sportspeople.[10]

Australian values were represented well and truly throughout the Opening and Closing Ceremonies with a distinctly Aboriginal feel about the Opening ceremony and in true Australian tradition, a party atmosphere to the closing ceremony. At the Opening Ceremony, the Paralympic flame was lit by Louise Sauvage, one of Australia’s finest Paralympic athletes.

Sauvage and Tim Sullivan both competed in this games and found outstanding success in their individual events. Sullivan is Australia’s most successful athletics athlete at a single Games, winning five gold medals in Sydney 2000.[10]

2002 Winter Paralympics

Australia’s best performance at Winter Paralympics winning six gold and one bronze medal at the 2002 Winter Paralympics. Of these medals, four were won by Michael Milton. Milton becoming the first athlete in his class to claim a clean sweep of gold medals across the four alpine disciplines when he won gold in all four of his events – Downhill, slalom, giant slalom, and super-G.[24][25]

Paralympics Opening Ceremony in Athens at the 2004 Summer Paralympics.

2004 Summer Paralympics

At the 2004 Paralympics, Australia was represented by a considerably smaller team than that of the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney; however, ranked second overall medals behind China.[10] The reduced team number was as a result of a strict selection criterium set by the APC and sports meant that only athletes with the potential to win a medal were on the Australian team.[10]

2006 Winter Paralympics

Australia took 10 athletes to compete in 3 sports and acquired a silver and a bronze medal to finish equal 13th on the overall medal table. Michael Milton won a silver medal in his event in his fifth and final Winter Paralympic Games, retiring as Australia's most successful Winter Paralympian ever.[4] Emily Jansen competed, as Australia's first female competitor at a Winter Paralympics, in two of the four alpine events.[26]

2008 Summer Paralympics

Australia ranked fourth overall behind China, Great Britain, and USA in the gold medal table.[10] The Beijing Games were the biggest ever with more athletes and countries competing across more sports than ever before. Australia sent their biggest delegation to an away Games to date with 167 athletes, 95 males and 72 females, who competed in 13 out of the 20 sports contested.[27] Rowing was added to the Paralympic program with the Australian doubles crew winning silver.[28] Timothy Sullivan became Australia’s leading gold medallist in Paralympic History, winning 10 gold medals.[10]

Australian Skier Jessica Gallagher (right) and guide Christian Geiger (left), 2014 Australian Paralympic Team Athlete.

2010 Winter Paralympics

Australia took its largest team to date, of 14 athletes and their guides, to the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.[29] Despite the large team, Australia finished 16th on the overall medal tally, winning four medals.[29] Australia had their first Australian female to win a medal at the Paralympic Winter Games, when Jessica Gallagher won bronze in the slalom.[29]

2012 Summer Paralympics

Australian Paralympic team member Matthew Cowdrey at the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games in London

Australia finished fifth in the medal tally with 32 gold, 23 silver and 30 bronze medals, which medals that were won in nine of the 13 sports contested by Australian athletes.[10] Australia achieved 16 world records and 35 Paralympic Records with performances from such athletes as: Todd Hodgetts (Shot Put), Kelly Cartwright (Long Jump), Susan Powell (Individual Pursuit), Bradley Mark (10m Air Rifle), Brenden Hall (400m Freestyle) and Blake Cochrane (100m Breaststroke). In total Australia had 93 medallists of which 25 were multi-medallists, while gold medallist there was 40 and eight of these were multi-gold medallists.[10]

London was the best performance by Australia’s Paralympic swim team since 1984. Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay swim team achieved Australia’s 1000th Summer Paralympic Games Medal (Australia’s 41st of the Games).

Jacqueline Freney was the most successful athlete from any nation, winning eight gold medals from eight events while her swimming teammate Matthew Cowdrey became the most successful Australian Paralympian of all-time by winning his 13th career gold medal at his third Games.[10] Matthew Cowdrey won gold on day seven in Men’s 50m Freestyle S9 Final, also breaking the world record which still stands at 25.13seconds. The victory gave Cowdrey (SA) his 13th career gold medal from three Games.[10]

The Australian wheelchair rugby team won its first Paralympic gold medal after claiming silver at the last two major tournaments (Beijing 2008, World Champs 2010).

The Australian Team marches at the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, led by flagbearer Cameron Rahles-Rahbula.

The youngest competitor in the London Games, 13-year-old & 300 days Maddison Elliott from Newcastle, NSW, claimed one gold, one silver, and two bronze medals and had the pleasure of presenting Prince Harry with Australian’s Paralympian toy Mascot “Lizzie” the Frill-necked Lizard.[10]

2014 Winter Paralympics

Australia came away from these games with two medals, a disappointing result. Australian Paralympic Chief Executive Jason Hellwig said that 'we were absolutely disappointed we didn't get the mission done to win that gold medal', however, he also described it as the most satisfying he had experienced because of the hardship the team had gone through.[30] The Australian Team's performance was greatly affected by their team member's death, Matthew Robinson, prior to the Games at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup.[31]

Katie Kelly & her guide Michellie Jones competing in Paratriathlon class PT4, PT2 e PT5, in Copacabana, Rio at the 2016 Summer Paralympics.

2016 Summer Paralympics

The Australian team comprised 177 athletes of which 103 are men and 74 are women.[32] Incredibly 89 athletes (50%) made their Paralympic debut in 2016. The average age of athletes on the Aussie team 2016 is 29.2 years. The average age of the male athletes is 29.1 years and the average age of female athletes is 29.4 years.[32]

In Rio there were an extraordinary eight Australian athletes who had competed in two or more different sports:

Notable achievements at the Games

Interesting Facts

Leading Australian Summer Paralympians 1960–2016[37]
Athlete Gold Silver Bronze Total
Matthew Cowdrey 13 7 3 23
Timothy Sullivan 10 0 0 10
Louise Sauvage 9 4 0 13
Priya Cooper 9 3 4 16
Libby Kosmala 9 3 0 12
Jacqueline Freney 8 0 3 11
Neil Fuller 6 6 3 15
Ellie Cole 6 4 5 15
Heath Francis 6 4 3 13
Tracey Freeman 6 4 0 10
Russell Short 6 2 3 11
Darren Thrupp 6 0 3 9
Siobhan Paton 6 0 0 6
Kingsley Bugarin 5 8 6 19

Leading Australian Winter Paralympic Medalists 1976–2014

Athlete Gold Silver Bronze Total
Michael Milton 6 3 2 11
Bart Bunting/Nathan Chivers (Guide) 2 1 0 3
Michael Norton 2 0 1 3
James Patterson 1 1 2 4
Marty Mayberry 0 10 1
David Munk 0 0 2 2
Cameron Rahles-Rahbula 0 0 2 2
Toby Kane 0 0 2 2
Jessica Gallagher 0 0 2 2

Jessica Gallagher (left) and Madison Janssen (right) prepare to to race in the Women’s B/VI 1000m time trial final in Rio at the 2016 Summer Paralympics.

First Gold Medallists

Dual Summer / Winter Paralympic Medallists

Dual Summer / Winter Paralympians

At the end of the 2012 Summer Paralympics, the following Australian athletes have attended both Summer and Winter Games.

See also

Australia at the Summer Paralympics


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