Louise Sauvage OAM was just 16 years old when she participated at her first IPC Athletics World Championships. From the moment she won her first gold medal – in world record time – it was clear that a star had arrived on the international stage.
Sauvage went on to change the sport of wheelchair racing by becoming one of its first truly professional athletes and, in the process, dominated it for a decade and raised the profile and perception of Paralympic sport and Paralympic athletes in Australia and around the world.
Highlights of her sporting career include:
- Nine gold and four silver medals from four Paralympic Games between 1992 and 2004, including four gold medals and two world records at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games. She won Paralympic gold medals across every distance between 100m and 5000m.
- Two gold and one bronze medal from three appearances in 800m demonstration races at the Olympic Games, including gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games
- Twelve gold and two silver medals from four IPC Athletics World Championships, including six gold medals in 1998
- Five gold medals from five appearances in 800m demonstration races at the IAAF World Championships
- Numerous victories in the world’s most prestigious road races, including four Boston Marathon crowns, wins in the Honolulu (three), Los Angeles, Oita, Sempach and Berlin (two) marathons, the Riverside Rumble 10K International Classic and Peachtree Road Race, and 10 wins in the Oz Day 10K.
Recognition of Sauvage’s achievements includes:
- Medal of the Order of Australia in 1993
- Australian Paralympian of the Year in 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1998
- Inaugural Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability in 2000
- Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2007
- Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2011
- Sport Australia Hall of Fame Legend in 2019.
Sauvage was selected to light the Paralympic cauldron at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games and to carry the flag for the Australian Team at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony. She has a Sydney ferry, street and pathway named after her, as well as numerous school sport houses around Australia.
Few have, or ever will, match Sauvage’s achievements in sport.