First Australian Paralympic medals go on display

The achievements of Australia’s first Paralympic gold medallist, Ross Sutton, and Australia’s first female Paralympian, Daphne Hilton (née Ceeney), have been recognised at the National Sports Museum at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The National Sports Museum has updated its Paralympic display after receiving a generous loan from the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) of historic medals and memorabilia from the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960.

The updated showcase comprises the arrows Ross Sutton used in the men’s paraplegic archery event, Australia’s inaugural Paralympic gold medal secured by Ross, and three of the six medals won by Daphne Hilton (née Ceeney), at the Games where she was the only female in the Australian team of 12 athletes. It also features the blazer pocket of wheelchair basketball player Kevin Coombs, Australia’s first indigenous Paralympian, who also competed at the Rome Games.

“We’re honoured to accept this collection of treasured items from the Australian Paralympic Committee,” said National Sport Museum Manager, Jed Smith.

“Ross and Daphne are remarkable athletes who have both made significant contributions to the Australian Paralympic movement and we’re absolutely delighted to celebrate their achievements. We consider these objects to be amongst the ‘Crown Jewels’ of Australian Paralympic history and are privileged to be able to display them.”

Jason Hellwig, Chief Executive of the Australian Paralympic Committee, says the APC is committed to preserving the proud history of the Australian Paralympic movement and that the National Sports Museum was the perfect place to do just that.  

“The achievements of Ross, Daphne and all of our first Paralympians are historically significant to Australia, not only because they won our first Paralympic gold medals but also because their achievements marked a turning point and positive move forward for people with a disability in this country,” said Mr Hellwig.

“It’s a great thing that their medals are now displayed in Australia’s greatest showcase of sport at the museum. On behalf of the athletes and their families, the APC is delighted we can now share these pieces of history with Australia.”

Ross Sutton attended his first Games just two years after a light plane crash left him paralysed. The 23-year-old from Armidale in New South Wales took up archery shortly after the accident and on day two of the Games became Australia’s first ever gold medallist when he won the men’s open archery competition. Ross passed away in 2000, just before the Sydney Paralympics.

In an era when athletes were expected to be versatile and play more than one sport, Daphne Hilton (née Ceeney),  won her medals in five different Paralympic sports – archery, athletics, fencing, swimming and table tennis.

At 26-years-old, Daphne won six medals across three sports at the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960. She went on to compete at the next two Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 1964 and Tel Aviv in 1968, before retiring with 14 career Paralympic medals –  three gold, five silver and six bronze. Daphne, now 78, lives in Canberra with her husband Frank – a former champion archer.  

Members of the Hilton and Sutton families are planning visits to the National Sports Museum in the coming weeks to see the new Paralympics display.

Photo: Australia's first Paralympic gold medallists Ross Sutton and Daphne Hilton (nee Ceeney)

By National Sports Museum & APC Media

Posted 25/03/2013

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