Jason Hellwig will lead the Australian Paralympic Team to the 2012 London Games as Chef de Mission following an announcement by the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) today.
The appointment, announced by APC President Greg Hartung, comes as the countdown to the London Paralympics enters the final 500 days.
The Australian Paralympic Committee is aiming to send an Australian team of more than 170 athletes and 130 officials across 15 sports to the London Games from August 29 to September 9 next year.
Hartung said Hellwig’s leadership qualities and knowledge of Paralympic sport made him the ideal candidate to fulfil the prestigious role.
“Jason is an outstanding sports administrator and knows what it takes to succeed in Paralympic sport at the highest level,” Hartung said.
“We know the London Paralympic Games will be most competitive in history and Australia faces a great challenge to maintain its position among the world’s top five, but we have every confidence in the ability of Jason and his Team Executive to provide a platform on which every Australian team member can perform at their peak.”
Hellwig said he is honoured to lead the Australian Paralympic Team, set to be the largest and best prepared Australian team ever sent to a Paralympic Games overseas.
“Australia has such a proud record at the Paralympic Games, and it is a great privilege to lead an Australian Paralympic Team, particularly for a Games in London,” Hellwig said.
“It’s going to be very exciting and a challenge I’m really looking forward to.”
Hellwig believes just a handful of medals could be the difference between Australia finishing in the top five, or outside the top ten on the medal tally.
Australia has finished in the top five at every Paralympic Games since Atlanta in 1996, including at the top of the medal tally at the Sydney Games in 2000.
But with more and more countries now placing a greater focus on Paralympic sport, Australia’s challenge to remain as one of the top five Paralympic nations in the world has never been tougher.
“It’s going to be difficult,” Hellwig said.
“A very small number of medals will be the difference between us finishing fourth or fifth, which I think we’re capable of, or falling outside the top 10. If we lose four or five medals, we could be as low as positions 12 or 13.
Led by Australia’s key Paralympic medal sports of athletics, cycling, swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby, Hellwig said he was confident in the entire Australian team’s ability to deliver on the world’s biggest stage.
And with the countdown now breaching 500 days the Chef de Mission believes Australia’s preparations are looming as the best they have been for a Paralympics.
“Our national federations, the coaches and the sports are doing a terrific job and the athletes are all doing the training and the work that’s required of them,” Hellwig said.
“Every sport we are taking has medal prospects in London.
“It’s a new generation. We have so many young kids coming through. Our Toyota Paralympic Talent Search Program has been really effective in bringing a whole new population of young athletes into the Paralympic high performance environment.
“I really think Australia can look forward to some new national heroes emerging from this team.”
Hellwig, also the Chief Executive of the APC, was the Australian Paralympic Team’s General Manager for Sport at the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games after serving as the Athletics Team Section Manager at the Sydney Paralympics in 2000.