"Frank Ponta was one of the true legends of Australian sport. He was a first-class athlete in a time where sport for people with disabilities was almost unheard of."
The Australian Paralympic Committee is saddened by the passing of Paralympic pioneer Frank Ponta.
Aged 75, Ponta passed away in Perth after a battle with ill health.
Ponta’s sporting career spanned five Paralympic Games, including one gold, two silver and one bronze Paralympic medals. He was a member of the very first Australian Paralympic Team, which competed at the 1960 Rome Paralympic Games.
Ponta is widely regarded as one of Australia’s greatest Paralympians, having represented Australia in wheelchair basketball, swimming, athletics and fencing. He is recognised as one of the greatest Australian wheelchair basketballers of all time.
But perhaps the West Australian’s greatest contribution came through his life’s dedication to developing sport for people with a disability in Australia.
His involvement in sport for people with a disability was influential in the growth of the Paralympic Movement in Australia. Actively involved in coaching and the administration of wheelchair sports his entire adult life, Ponta coached countless athletes from junior level through to Paralympic champions, including nine-time Paralympic gold medallists Louise Sauvage and Priya Cooper.
He was also a driving force behind the wheelchair sports movement in his home state of Western Australia and remained heavily involved in wheelchair sport, even after suffering a stroke in 2009.
APC Chief Executive Officer Jason Hellwig said Ponta’s contribution to Australian Paralympic sport is unrivalled.
“Frank Ponta was one of the true legends of Australian sport. He was a first-class athlete in a time where sport for people with disabilities was almost unheard of, and his life contribution to the development of the movement gives us much to be thankful for today,” said Hellwig.
“Without people like Frank in the early years of Paralympic sport, Australia wouldn’t be in the position it is today as one of the best Paralympic nations in the world.
“He was a larrikin and a great bloke who represented everything great about being Australian and he will be terribly missed by all within the Paralympic community.”
The Australian Paralympic Committee passes on its condolences to Frank Ponta’s family and many friends.