Australia's Greatest Inducted into Paralympic Hall of Fame29.08.2011
APC launched Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame with there inaugural inductions
"The names Louise Sauvage, Frank Ponta and Sir George Bedbrook will now be immortalised in the world of Australian Paralympic Sport and rightfully so."
The Australian Paralympic Committee has officially launched the Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame with three inaugural inductions announced tonight at a ceremony in Sydney.
On the day which also marked one year to go until the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Paralympic legends Louise Sauvage and Frank Ponta became the first female and male athletes to be inducted along with Sir George Bedbrook, the first associate member.
President of the Australian Paralympic Committee Greg Hartung said the three inductees could not be more deserving of such an honour.
“The names Louise Sauvage, Frank Ponta and Sir George Bedbrook will now be immortalised in the world of Australian Paralympic Sport and rightfully so,” Hartung said.
“The contributions of the three inductees to the Australian Paralympic Movement personify the finest ideals of Paralympic sport – outstanding sport performance, inspiration, and generous and indomitable spirit.
“By recognising individuals who have made a significant contribution to the Paralympic movement in Australia, the Australian Paralympic Committee aims to enhance the understanding of Paralympic sport and promote the Paralympic movement in Australia and around the world.”
Now a coach of some of Australia’s leading prospects for wheelchair racing medals at next year’s Paralympic Games, Sauvage said that while the honour of being the first female inductee came as a surprise, it is one she will savour.
Sauvage dominated wheelchair racing for more than a decade and became the public face of Australian Paralympic sport in the process.
On top of her nine Paralympic medals from four Games, she lit the Paralympic cauldron for the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games and still has a Sydney ferry, a street and a pathway named after her, as well as numerous school sport houses around Australia.
“It is such a great honour to be the first female inductee, I am so happy,” Sauvage said.
“When you retire you don’t expect to keep on getting accolades, but the launch of the Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame is a great way to acknowledge the contribution of people who have contributed to Australia’s Paralympic past, and I’m just honoured to have been seen as someone who has made such a worthy contribution. It’s a great feeling.”
Being inducted with her mentor, one of the most influential names in Australian Paralympic history Frank Ponta, made the occasion all the more special for Sauvage.
Ponta, who passed away recently, was one of Australia’s most talented and versatile Paralympians and his contribution to the Paralympic movement in Australia as an athlete, coach and administrator is unsurpassed.
Among his many achievements during a stunning international sporting career, Ponta was part of the Australian Team at the first Paralympic Games in 1960, and retired with a career tally of four Paralympic medals across two sports.
Ponta was also a devoted and successful volunteer coach and mentor of junior athletes in Western Australia, a role he played for almost 50 years. He produced athletes who became Paralympic champions, like Sauvage, and assisted countless others to enjoy sport.
Widely regarded as one of the father figures of Paralympic sport in Australia, Sir George Bedbrook joins Sauvage and Ponta in the Paralympic Hall of Fame.
Having established Australia’s first spinal unit in Perth in 1954, Dr Bedbrook believed strongly in the virtues of sport for people with a disability and in 1957 led Australia’s first ever international disability sport team to England for the Stoke Mandeville Games. He also orchestrated Australia’s attendance at the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960 and with the Games a resounding success, was invited to lead the Australian Team to the second Paralympics in 1964.
Dr Bedbrook was also one of the founding members of the International Co-ordination Committee of World Sports Organizations for the Disabled (ICC), which became the International Paralympic Committee in 1989.
Held at Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music, the ceremony was attended by such dignitaries as Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce, Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, and Senator Mark Arbib, the Federal Minister for Sport.