By Tom Degun

Kate McLoughlinMarch 7 - The Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) has appointed Kate McLoughlin as its first ever female Chef de Mission for Sochi 2014, with the Winter Games in Russia set to take place in exactly one years' time.

McLoughlin, the APC's sport operations senior manager, served as Deputy Chef de Mission at London 2012 where Australia finished fifth overall with 85 medals, 32 of which were gold.

McLoughlin will now be looking to help Australia improve on their performance at the last Winter Paralympics in Vancouver in 2010 where they finished 16th on the medal table with four medals, three silvers and a bronze.

"I'm immensely proud to be the first woman to hold the role of Chef de Mission for a Paralympic team," said McLoughlin.

"Australian sport has traditionally seen more men in leadership positions and it's good to see the tide is continuing to turn.

"To lead an Australian team at a Paralympic Games is a great honour and I look forward to supporting these amazing Australian athletes compete at this event, the pinnacle of Winter Paralympic sport."
Marty MayberryMarty Mayberry proved Australia’s leading performer at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Paralympics as he claimed a silver medal in the men’s downhill standing event

McLoughlin also admitted that she is hopeful that Australia can win their first gold medal at a Winter Paralympic Games since Salt Lake City in 2002.

"The team we take to Sochi is about quality," she said.

"Every athlete has the potential to win a medal and we would love to improve on our performance in Vancouver four years ago, where we won one silver and three bronze medals.

"It's been over a decade since we won gold and we would dearly love to end that drought.

"We have a tough challenge in front of us.

"The level of competition around the world has increased significantly since Vancouver but we believe we've put the best support around our athletes to give them a fighting chance at finishing on the podium."

APC President Greg Hartung outlined the significance of McLoughlin's appointment as the first ever leader of an Australian Paralympic team.

"Leading an Australian Paralympic team is a privilege and a great responsibility," Hartung said.

"Kate's exceptional management and leadership skills mean she is the best person for this job.

"And to have a woman lead an Australian Paralympic team for the first time is historically poignant and something of which I am hugely proud."

Australia has participated at every Winter Paralympics since the first event in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden in 1976 and the nation won its first Winter Paralympic medals in Tignes and Albertville, France in 1992.

Australia has medalled at every Winter Paralympics since then, with all of the medals having so far been won in alpine skiing.

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