Paralympian inspired by teammates

11 October 2000

Australian Institute of Sport Paralympian and World record holding athlete, Hamish MacDonald, believes he is nothing special.

"I grew up with cerebral palsy and didn't have any other reality; I really take off my hat to the Paralympians who have had to overcome tremendous lifestyle change because of often horrendous injury," he says.

Hamish, 26, from Alice Springs, holds the world shot put record in his category with a throw of 10.87 metres. He had set a world record of 10.45 metres to win gold in the shot put at the Atlanta Paralympic Games, but bettered that mark at the recent Telstra track and field trials for the Paralympics.

He says his condition - cerebral palsy - has never held him back. Hamish did not walk without callipers until he was eight.

"My role models are the people who have overcome grievous injuries to excel in sport, and through sport, to excel in life," he says.

He attributes a lot of his success to encouragement from of his physical education teachers at the Alice Springs High School, Shane Claridge and Michelle Parker.

"They were the best teachers; they certainly gave me a big boost and helped to set my sights on track and field sports."

That target has brought him many achievements along the way.

Hamish won gold and set a world record for the 400 metre run in his category at the Berlin World Championships in 1994, the first year he took up a scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport. He had already represented Australia in athletics at the Barcelona Paralympic Games in 1992, and, in 1996, he was chosen the Northern Territory Sportsman of the Year.

In the same year he was awarded the Order of Australian Medal and followed up in 1998 by becoming a goodwill sporting representative for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

Hamish lit the Paralympic Games torch cauldron at the Institute in Canberra for the start of the Paralympic torch relay.

The first torch bearer was another Australian Institute of Sport Paralympian, David Hall, who before the Games regained the world number one wheelchair tennis ranking following a victory in the prestigious US Open in San Diego.

The Executive Director of the Australian Sports Commission, Jim Ferguson, says that as Australia's peak sporting organisation, the Commission is proud to support Hamish and the other members of the Aussie Paralympic team. The team has been supported by an $8 million Australian Sports Commission program run through its Athletes with Disabilities Program, the Olympic Athlete Program and the AIS.

"The athletes with disabilities program illustrates our commitment to helping these determined Australians and to continue the role of the AIS as the cradle of all Australian sporting achievement."

The Paralympic Games begin in Sydney on 18 October and run until 29 October.

Twenty nine members of the Australian Athletes With Disabilities team are from the Australian Institute of Sport. They will compete in seven of the 18 sports at the Paralympics.

Athletes With Disabilities fall into five groups: wheelchair athletes, those with intellectual disabilities, amputees, those with cerebral palsy and the visually impaired.

The no-nonsense head coach for the athletes with disabilities program at the Australian Institute of Sport, Chris Nunn, is predicting that Australia could take out the Paralympics after finishing second to the United States in the Atlanta Games.

"We have a great depth of expertise in all the sports in which we are competing," he says, adding, "the Institute is creating an infrastructure for people with disabilities to excel in sport."

Contact: Alan Reid - Media Liaison: Phone: 02 6214 1476

Mobile: 0408 417 894

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