Frank Ponta was one of Australia’s most talented and versatile Paralympic athletes.
He first represented Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games in England, as a member of the first Australian team for athletes with an impairment. He was the coach and captain of the Australian wheelchair basketball team and also competed in Para-athletics and wheelchair fencing.
Three years later, Ponta competed at his first of five Paralympic Games, where he represented Australia in Para-athletics, Para-swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair fencing, and won a silver medal in Para-athletics. In 1964, he won a gold medal in Para-swimming and a silver in wheelchair fencing, and completed his set of Paralympic medals in 1968 with a bronze in Para-swimming.
As well as five Paralympic campaigns and one appearance at the Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta also represented Australia at three Commonwealth Paraplegic Games and one Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled. Between 1960 and 1992, he competed at 19 National Wheelchair Games and wheelchair basketball competitions, as a competitor in Para-athletics, Para-swimming and wheelchair fencing, and as a wheelchair basketball player and coach.
For over 50 years, Ponta was also a devoted and successful volunteer coach and mentor of junior athletes in WA. He produced athletes who became Paralympic champions – Priya Cooper, Madison de Rozario, Justin Eveson, Louise Sauvage and Bruce Wallrodt – and assisted countless others to enjoy Para-sport. In 2001, he coached the Perth Wheelcats in the newly formed National Wheelchair Basketball League.
As an administrator, Ponta helped to establish Disability Recreation & Sports SA and was deeply involved as a board member of Rebound WA, even after a stroke in 2009.
Ponta’s contribution to the Paralympic movement in Australia as an athlete, coach and administrator is unsurpassed. For this, he was an inaugural inductee into the Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame.
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