Six Paralympic pioneers have been immortalised after the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) announced the 2016 inductions into the Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame.
Athletes Kevin Coombs, Daphne Hilton, Tracey Freeman and David Hall and Administrators Ron Finneran and Adrienne Smith were inducted during the Australian Paralympic Awards Gala Dinner at Sydney’s Hyatt Regency.
The Hall of Fame was established by the APC in 2011 to recognise individuals who have made a significant contribution to the development of the Paralympic movement in Australia.
Congratulating the recipients and their families, Chief Executive of the APC Lynne Anderson said:
“The 2016 Australian Paralympic Awards marked the second series of inductions into the Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame. All of our inductees tonight were specifically selected for the role they played or continue to play in the promotion of Paralympic sport in our community.
“The APC places a huge emphasis on its history and our gratitude to the pioneers of our Movement is enormous.
“It is impossible to overstate the positive impact that these six inductees have had on Australian Paralympic sport.”
As the first Indigenous athlete to represent Australia at the Paralympic or Olympic Games, Coombs competed at five Paralympic Games between the years 1960 and 1984, one as captain of the Australian Paralympic Team. He also captained and coached the men’s wheelchair basketball team in 1972 and captained it again in 1984. Since retiring from sport, Coombs has served as a mentor and role model to countless Paralympians and is a leader within his community and more broadly. At the Australian Paralympic Awards, the inaugural Uncle Kevin Coombs Medal for the Spirit of the Games was awarded to sailor Liesl Tesch by co-captains of the 2016 Australian Paralympic Team Kurt Fearnley and Danni Di Toro.
Hilton, who passed away in July 2016, was Australia’s only female competitor at the inaugural 1960 Paralympic Games in Rome, where she won six of Australia’s 10 medals. A pioneer of Paralympic and women’s sport, she won a career total 14 medals across five sports at three Paralympic Games, a record unlikely to ever be broken. Hilton became a paraplegic in a horse riding accident when she was 17. Her daughters Rachael and Nicole accepted the honour on her behalf.
Freeman was the first Australian woman to win multiple gold in athletics at the same Paralympic Games, paving the way for Paralympic greats the likes of 2011 inductee Louise Sauvage, Lisa McIntosh and Amy Winters. At her debut Games in Heidelberg in 1972, Freeman was Australia’s most successful athlete. She broke three world records and won three gold and two silver medals, a result she matched at the Toronto Paralympic Games four years later, with another three world records and three gold and two silver medals. Her plans for a third medal haul at the 1980 Games were thwarted when she was injured in a car accident just before the Games.
One of the world’s most decorated wheelchair tennis players, Hall competed at four Paralympic Games between the years 1992 and 2004. Over 13 years and four Paralympic Games, he claimed six Paralympic medals, as well as 16 grand slam titles and 18 Super Series titles. He was ranked World number one for eight of the eleven years between 1995 and 2005.
Winter sport athlete and administrator Ron Finneran co-founded the Australian Disabled Skiers Federation (ADSF, now Disabled Winter Sport Australia) in 1978 and was employed as its executive director for 31 years. In this role he helped to transform Para-skiing facilities, training programs, talent development and government support in Australia. The former board member and president of the Australian Paralympic Foundation (APF, now APC) also played a hand in the establishment of the Australian Institute of Sport’s Paralympic Alpine Skiing Program in conjunction with the APC.
After becoming involved with ADSF, Smith was appointed the national coordinator for sport and recreation for the Australian Bicentennial Authority, securing approximately $500,000 in funding for disability sport programs. The 1988 Australian Sports Administrator of the Year was central to the establishment of the APF in 1990, serving as its founding chief executive, and in 1992 she personally underwrote the cost of sending the Australian Paralympic Team to the Albertville Games. She was also a key player in the bid for Sydney 2000. Smith passed away in 2012, with daughters Nicola and Celia attending the Awards on her behalf.
By APC Media