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Sarah Stewart, the new Chair of Paralympics Australia’s Athlete Commission, plans to use her wide-ranging experience to expand on the Commission’s collaborative approach to representing the athlete body.

The three-time Paralympian and three-time medallist between 2004 and 2012 with the Gliders wheelchair basketball team was elected unopposed by her peers to take over from Annabelle Williams, who served as Chair since the inception of the Athlete Commission in 2017. Williams will continue as one of the representative body’s 11 commissioners.

Stewart brings a wealth of knowledge to the post. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science with Honours in Philosophy and Cognitive Science. While competing, she taught secondary school philosophy and mathematics, tutored in philosophy and lectured at the University of NSW.

Stewart is a Director on the Board of Wheelchair Sports NSW and is on the Executive of the Sydney University Sport and Fitness Clubs Advisory Committee. She is also the team manager and assistant coach of the Sydney Uni Flames wheelchair basketball team.

Stewart said her practical experience gave her a broad view of athlete needs and the way they interact with other aspects of sporting body operations. She said she intended to “support our people every step of the journey, helping them become well rounded humans, not just athletes”.

“The Athlete Commission is a really important body because it acts as a conduit and fosters relationships that make things happen,” Stewart said.

“It gives athletes a focal point in that they can come to us and give us an understanding of what’s going on for them. It also gives Paralympics Australia a point of contact for issues related to athletes. We act in a consultative way and I think that’s really important.

“My experience, from being a player, coach and being a manager, I think is quite helpful because I understand the different perspectives, the different positions people are coming from, and understand that we need to be representatives of all those needs.”

Stewart said the Athlete Commission’s first task would be to re-examine its strategic plan and consider how it fits in with Paralympics Australia’s strategic plan, which is also undergoing an update.

“But our focus will be on our whole Paralympic community, from our alumni right through to the athletes who are getting onto our long list [for selection to the Paralympic Games Team],” she said.

“We’ve got a really big picture view of things. Everyone in our group is focused on getting it right. We’re passionate about doing that right across the board, not just relative to our specific sports.”

Stewart will work closely with seven-time Paralympian Danni Di Toro, who was re-elected as Vice Chair. Di Toro said: “We are so grateful for the work Annie [Williams] has done to bring the Athlete Commission to the place it is today. Her vision and leadership has created a strong foundation that we will all continue to build upon.

“I look forward to working with Sarah to make the next two years as productive and as meaningful as possible.”

By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 27 June 2022