Aussies set sights high for Rio 2016 Paralympics
Thursday, 13 September 2012
September 13 - Following a superb performance by their athletes at London 2012, Australia is already aiming to beat its Paralympic Games medal haul in Rio de Janeiro in four years' time.
Australia claimed 32 gold medals and finished just one silver away from fourth place in the medal table at this summer's Paralympics in London, a performance that exceeded expectations.
Jason Hellwig, the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) chief executive and Chef de Mission, said the youthful profile of the team gives reason to believe they will do even better in Rio.
"This is a very young team so there is nice potential here for Rio and beyond," Hellwig said.
"We are really pleased with our results here and it's a credit to the athletes and their coaches and support staff.
"All that the APC set out to achieve was an environment that was uncluttered in which athletes could focus and be really calm in delivering their best performance.
"And hopefully we've achieved that for them."
Nearly half of the Australian team were competing at their first Paralympic Games.
Highlights for the Australian delegation included their first gold medal in wheelchair rugby, after finishing as runners up at Beijing 2008.
Most of their medals came in the swimming, where they finished second in the sport specific medal table.
In the Aquatics Centre, Matthew Cowdrey (pictured top) became the country's most successful Paralympian ever, picking up his 13th gold medal at the Games.
There was also a record-breaking performance by Jacqueline Freney, the 20-year-old who won eight gold medals – more golds than any other Aussie has ever won at a single Paralympics.
Hellwig believes that this summer's team is the best Paralympic squad Australia has ever had, despite their best haul of gold medals coming at the home Games in Sydney in 2000, where they picked up 63.
"Sydney was a different time and there's a lot of evolution that's happened since then," Hellwig said.
"It will always be special for what it did just in the quantum of medals won.
"But in terms of the quality of athletes, the preparation and the focus, this is the best Paralympic team we've put together and I hope that now sets the standard for future teams.
"Athletically this a far superior team than in 2000 and that's meant as no disrespect to Sydney.
"It's just the evolution of the Paralympic Games and the Paralympic Movement.
"Our ability as an organisation has been to capitalise on that growth.
"We've had a lot of young athletes at the Australian Institute of Sport gaining experience, and over here we've had seven new coaches here on an observation tour."
August 2012: Australia targets top five finish at London 2012
August 2011: We will fight for a top five spot at London 2012 but it is getting harder, admits APC chief executive
March 2011: Australia set for lowest Paralympic medal haul for 20 years
March 2011: Exclusive - "We'll be back...but not in time for London 2012" warns Australian Paralympic chief Hellwig