Australian Paralympic legend Daphne Hilton has died aged 82 ©Wikipedia

Australian Paralympic legend Daphne Hilton, a 14-time Paralympic medallist across five different sports, has died aged 82. 

Tributes have been led by the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC), who described having lost one of its "true trailblazers".

Hilton (née Ceeney) became a paraplegic after a horse-riding accident in 1951 at the age of 17, which had left her in hospital for nine months.

She was her country's only female competitor at the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960, winning two gold medals in 50 metres breaststroke and crawl swimming events.

She also won two silvers and bronze in athletics and a silver medal in archery.

Table tennis doubles gold followed four years later in Tokyo, along with silver and bronze in swimming and further bronze medals in archery and fencing.

She then won two more athletics bronzes at Tel Aviv 1968, along with a swimming silver.

After retiring following these Games, she made a brief return in the 1990s in a bid to compete in lawn bowls at Sydney 2000.

This was unsuccessful as the sport was taken off the programme, but she still won a pairs silver and bronze aged 68 at the 2002 World Wheelchair Games.

Daphne Hilton viewing equipment donated to the APC in 2012 ©Wikipedia
Daphne Hilton viewing equipment donated to the APC in 2012 ©Wikipedia

"The APC was very saddened to learn of Daphne's passing and our sincere condolences are with Daphne's family and friends" said APC chief executive Lynne Anderson.

"Daphne was a pioneer for Paralympic sport and women's sport and she has left an incredibly powerful legacy.

“Her outstanding athleticism was matched only by her versatility - she was certainly one of a kind.

“Until Daphne started to compete, sport for people with a disability was completely dominated by men. 

"Her achievements at the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960 demonstrated that Australia’s female athletes were perfectly capable of out-performing the men and opened the doors to other female Paralympic athletes to follow.

“Even at a time when Paralympic athletes often competed in more than one sport, Daphne’s achievement of winning Paralympic medals in five sports was exceptional and it’s a record that I’m certain simply won’t be surpassed.”

Hilton was also seen as role-model for those with spinal cord injuries, as in the 1950s rehabilitation was minimal and many people had a short life expectancy.

When she returned from the Rome Games, her hometown of Murrumburrah welcomed her with a parade and a civic reception.

She later became the first person with paraplegia to give birth to twins in Australia.

Hilton is survived by her husband Frank and daughters Rachael and Nicole.