“Australia achieved its goal this year of a top five finish at the Paralympic Games, and it is entirely because of the incredible athletes and staff on the 2016 Australian Paralympic Team,”
The Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) honoured Paralympians both past and present at the Australian Paralympic Awards gala dinner on Thursday (8 December), with seven prestigious awards presented to members of the 2016 Australian Paralympic Team and six athletes and officials inducted into the Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame.
The 2016 Australian Paralympic Awards saw wheelchair tennis golden boy Dylan Alcott crowned as Australian Paralympian and Male Paralympian of the Year for his outstanding dual gold medal wins at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, while Paralympic swimming champion Maddison Elliott, who was Australia’s most prolific medallist and the 10th most successful from any nation at the Rio Games, took out Female Paralympian of the Year.
Paralympic debutant James Turner was awarded Paralympic Rookie of the Year after surging to Paralympic gold in the 800m T36. Also nominated for Male Paralympian of the Year, he exceeded all expectations when he smashed the world record by nearly three seconds.
The Paralympic Team of the Year title was awarded to the Australian Paralympic sailing team comprising of three boats, which together achieved a near-perfect haul of two gold and one silver medal.
Russell Boaden, Jonathan Harris and Colin Harrison, who were dominant throughout their Games campaign, won gold in the 3-person keelboat Sonar event and teammates Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch became the first pair ever to win the 2-person keelboat SKUD18 title back-to-back. Matt Bugg also performed strongly, placing second in the single person keelboat 2.4mR to win Australia’s first ever medal in that class.
World-renowned Paralympic sprint coach Iryna Dvoskina was named Coach of the Year after her trio of athletes Scott Reardon, Evan O’Hanlon and Chad Perris delivered a full set of medals in Rio, bringing her Paralympic career total to 29.
Co-captains of the 2016 Australian Paralympic Team five-time Paralympian Kurt Fearnley and six-time Paralympian Danni Di Toro were charged with selecting the inaugural winner of the Uncle Kevin Coombs Medal for the Spirit of the Games. Awarded to seven-time Paralympian and two-time Paralympic champion sailor Liesl Tesch, Di Toro explained:
“When I think about this mob and what it means to be a Paralympian, not only our successes as athletes but also as Teammates and members of the community, none fly the flag higher than Liesl.”
Also honoured during the night were the six newest inductees to the Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame; trailblazer for the Australian Paralympic Movement and Australia’s first Indigenous Paralympian Kevin Coombs, Paralympic gold medallist in wheelchair tennis David Hall, ten-time Paralympic medallist Tracey Freeman, Australia’s first female Paralympian Daphne Hilton, former APC CEO and the first secretary general of the Australian Paralympic Federation Adrienne Smith, as well as Ron Finneran, Australia’s first Winter Paralympian and long-time Winter sport administrator.
In congratulating the inductees and award recipients, APC Chief Executive Lynne Anderson said the awards were not only a celebration of a successful year, but a celebration of the recognition in growth of the Australian Paralympic Movement.
“Australia achieved its goal this year of a top five finish at the Paralympic Games, and it is entirely because of the incredible athletes and staff on the 2016 Australian Paralympic Team,” Anderson said.
“The expertise, skill and commitment of our athletes, coaches and administrators are like no other and I cannot think of any people more deserving than those honoured here tonight.
“This year saw an increase in recognition of the Paralympic Movement, and it’s important that we remember how far we’ve come from the first Paralympic Games in 1960, by honouring the trailblazers and pioneers of the movement with the induction of our new Hall of Famers.
“I look forward to seeing the continued growth of the Paralympic movement in Australia and honouring more athletes and officials in the years to come.”