As the first Indigenous athlete to represent Australia at a Paralympic or Olympic Games, Kevin Coombs OAM is one of Australia’s most notable wheelchair basketball players.
Despite never winning a Paralympic medal, his efforts both on and off the court to raise the profile of athletes with an impairment as genuine, competitive sportsmen and women have helped to push Para-sport towards the forefront of Australia’s social and economic agenda.
Some of the highlights of Coombs’ distinguished sporting career include:
- Five Paralympic appearances between 1960 and 1984, including the inaugural Rome 1960 Paralympic Games as Australia’s only Indigenous representative. He was selected to captain the Australian men’s wheelchair basketball team at the Heidelberg 1972 and Stoke Mandeville 1984 Paralympic Games, and he captained the entire Australian Paralympic Team in 1980.
- One Commonwealth Paraplegic Games appearance in 1974. He won a silver medal as captain of the Australian men’s wheelchair basketball team.
- Two gold medals from the Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled in 1977 and 1983.
Coombs’ achievements have been recognised by:
- Medal of the Order of Australia in 1983
- Sir Ludwig Guttmann Trophy in 1988
- Australian Sports Medal in 2000
- Basketball Australia Hall of Fame in 2007
- Victorian Indigenous Honour Roll in 2012
- Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2016.
He was also invited to carry the Paralympic torch into the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony, and has an avenue in his name in Sydney Olympic Park. In 2016, Paralympics Australia created the Uncle Kevin Coombs Medal for the Spirit of the Games, which was awarded to Para-sailor Liesl Tesch.
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