Paralympic Legend: Andrew Dawes

Four Paralympic Games and more than 20 Paralympic medals is a coaching record few Australians can lay claim to, and Andrew Dawes is not ready to stop there.

The Australian Wheelchair Track and Road Head Coach says his motivation to produce successful athletes is greater than ever as preparation for his next career challenge enters its final month.

The challenge is a massive one – the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships from January 21-30 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

A physical education teacher, Dawes rose through the coaching ranks before his appointment as a wheelchair track and road coach on the 1996 Australian Paralympic Team.

In the 14 years that have followed, Dawes has been a driving force behind some of the greats of Australian wheelchair athletics including Louise Sauvage, Greg Smith and Fabian Blattman.

And his modern day charges, including two-time defending Paralympic wheelchair marathon champion Kurt Fearnley, continue to develop their own place among the legends of the sport.

“I stay motivated because there are always new goals and new things I want to achieve as a coach,” Dawes said.

“Paralympic sport is evolving and growing so rapidly, and it’s only going to get bigger.”

A self declared “control freak”, Dawes admits it will be hard to bid farewell to the Australian team when it departs for the World Championships next month, but with wife Christie – a four-time Paralympian – expecting their first child in early February, Dawes made the decision to remain at home.

“The wheelchair athletes on this team are quite a young group, so it’s going to be exciting to see how they perform in Christchurch,” Dawes said.

“This is a stepping stone towards London 2012, but we’re still aiming high. Our guys performed strongly at our recent camp and are used to performing in January while many from the Northern Hemisphere aren’t. So there are a few reasons why we can go over there and achieve some great results.”

Dawes said it would be hard to discount Fearnley for a medal in the marathon, despite a less than perfect preparation, and also said rising star Madison De Rozario was on the brink of something special.

“Madison is a very talented athlete. She has some very tough athletes in her classification and might find it a little bit hard in Christchurch, but she has some big plans for London and this is an important point in that journey.”

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By Tim Mannion