The Golden Day When Dreamers Became Legends 

There were so many exceptional performances by Australian Para-athletes on the penultimate day of Sydney 2000. Perhaps the most appropriate reflection comes from one who was just starting out. 

Paralympic legend Kurt Fearnley was only 18 when he competed at Sydney 2000. It was his first Paralympics experience. He didn’t know it at the time, but what he learnt throughout the lead-up and course of the Games would set him up for the career he was to have. 

“I was learning to be a Paralympian around people who expected more of themselves,” Fearnley said.  

“I was part of an extremely driven team and you felt you were taking things to a different level.  

“When we won the right to host the Paralympics, we ran with it. We developed a more professional team, a more professional outlook, our athletes were more committed to what it took to be a professional athlete.   

“In the six months leading up there were team camps. I didn’t know any better, I’d never been to anything like it before, but I just remember thinking everyone knew those Games were coming up and everyone was holding each other to account. There was a really intense feel to the whole thing well before we even took to the track.  

“Everyone was in the zone. Everyone knew we were going to have a lot of support and everyone knew we needed to be committed. There were a lot of our athletes who wanted that moment in front of their home crowd and to do really well.”  

MORE: download your copy of The Australian Paralympian 20-year Anniversary souvenir magazine (PDF 6,526KB).

On Day 10 of the Sydney Games dreams came true at Stadium Australia. Gold medals were sealed by John Lindsay in the 100 metres T53, Geoff Trappett in the 100 metres T54, Greg Smith in the 1500 metres T52, Anton Flavel in the javelin F20, Russell Short in the discus F12, Neil Fuller in the 400 metres T44, Lisa McIntosh in the 200 metres T38, Rebecca Feldman in the 400 metres T34 and Louise Sauvage in the 5000 metres T54. Rounding out the best ever day in Australia’s Para-athletics history, the men’s 4×100 metres relay T42-46 and men’s 4×100 metres relay T35-38 each won gold.  

One of the victorious relay team members, Tim Matthews, who won in the T42-46 classification, said: “It was the highlight of my competition. I’d had a long competition and it was just phenomenal to end four years of training and hard work with a gold medal on the last day. It seemed like the Australian anthem played nonstop and I was incredibly proud to be part of just one of those golds.”  

In total, Australia added 13 gold medals on a historic Day 10. Away from the main stadium, Siobhan Paton capped off her incredible campaign with gold in the 50 metres freestyle S14, her sixth win of the Games while David Hall took out the men’s singles wheelchair tennis title. 

Our thanks to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for providing the footage to support our 20-year anniversary celebrations.

For more information about the history of the Paralympic Movement in Australia, visit the Australian Paralympic History website.

By David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 28 October 2020