Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.

Australia at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

When Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic movement, visited the Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit at Shenton Park in 1957, he challenged the unit’s director, Dr George Bedbrook, to send a team to the International Stoke Mandeville Games in July that year. Dr Bedbrook accepted the challenge in front of the gathered crowd. The athletes were shocked and excited: ‘At that point, it hit a lot of us like the proverbial thunderbolt – one minute we were nobodies and the next minute we were probable Australian representatives at an international sports meet’.

The first team of disability athletes to leave Australia followed the established tradition of securing donations, in kind or in cash, and self funding, including by securing donations from crowds watching exhibition wheelchair basketball matches.

Unlike future Australian teams, there were no formalised selection procedures. Dr Bedbrook acted as key organiser, liaison with Stoke Mandeville, and sole selector of the team.

The team consisted of seven West Australians and one athlete each from New South Wales and South Australia. Accompanying the team was physiotherapist ‘Johnno’ Johnston, who was the Manager and nurse Edna Smith. From a competitive perspective, there were no great expectations with the team, nor was the competitive dimension terribly important to Dr Bedbrook or the team’s support staff.

The touring athletes had a range of physical disabilities which had resulted in full or partial paralysis of their lower limbs caused by poliomyletis, spinal tumours, car accidents and war-related injuries. This was the first time that a team of disability athletes had flown en masse and key issues were the management of medical issues, loading and unloading of the sportsmen, as well as seating and sleeping conditions.

The father of the youngest team member, Alan Quirk, was a manager of Qantas in Perth and he did much to make the travel comfortable for the athletes. Rows of seats in the first class section of the Qantas ‘Super Constellation’ were removed to accommodate the athletes. The needs of the athletes were catered for by Johnno Johnston, Edna Smith and a doctor provided by Qantas. The 48 hour flight to London was punctuated by stopovers in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi, Bahrain, Athens and Rome.

By 1957, the Stoke Mandeville Games had developed and expanded considerably since their origins in 1948. The 1957 Games had 360 competitors from 13 nations, competing in archery, basketball, club swinging, dartchery, fencing, javelin, snooker, table tennis and swimming.

The most successful Australian performers were Bill Mather-Brown and Frank Ponta, who combined to win the team sabre event and take home the first gold medal for an Australian team in an international disability sport event. Mather-Brown was also awarded the Carl Freeman Trophy for the best all round athlete after competing in basketball, fencing, field events and swimming. The captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell delivered the closing address on behalf of the visiting international teams.

The basketball competition was a knockout event and the Australians were pitted against the Duchess of Gloucester House, a convalescent home for those with spinal cord injuries. The Australians thought they would be very competitive given their training and games in Western Australia and after they saw the rudimentary, high backed chairs used by the Gloucester House team. However, the Gloucester House team had been playing for several years, making the final at Stoke Mandeville previously, and even with their cumbersome chairs they were too skilful for the Australians, who were eliminated in their first international game.

The 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was the first time an Australian disability sports team competed at an international games.

At the 1953 Stoke Mandeville Games, another Australian

Six nations participated in the 2nd International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, which were held over two days in August: 25 groups of athletes from Canada, Finland, France, Israel and the Netherlands joined the British teams. A flag with six white stars to represent these six countries was designed for the event. Some individuals from other countries also participated, including Australian Tom Butler from Manjimup, Western Australia, who was receiving treatment for paralysis at Stoke Mandeville following an industrial accident in 1947. Butler won the backstroke event in swimming, the newest sport to be added to a line-up that included archery, javelin, netball, snooker and table tennis. Club swinging and dartchery were demonstration events in 1953.

For the second time in its short history, an Australian patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital competed in the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Basketball controversy at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The ‘incomplete lesion’ wheelchair basketball final at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games was torrid and controversial. After a rough first half, the Pan Am Jets, representing the USA, led the team from the Netherlands 10-4 into an even more physical second half, when the Netherlands’ coach withdrew his team from the court in protest. After a review, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the Games, disqualified the American team and awarded the gold medal to the Dutch. This photo captures a moment when the passion on the court infected the spectators clustered closely around the sidelines.

Bill Mather-Brown talks about the tricks of the American basketball team

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Pan Am Jets representing the USA at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games

The Pan Am Jets represented the USA in wheelchair basketball at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. The Jets were led by the legendary Junius Kellogg (far right, back). They were the dominant team in the tournament but were controversially disqualified in the final when leading the Netherlands team 10-4. Although damaged, this photo shows a team full of confidence and ‘swag’.

Bill Mather-Brown on the hazards of sabre, and Australia’s first gold medal

Interviewer: Robin Poke
Publisher: National Library of Australia
Interviewee: Bill Mather-Brown
Recorded: 3 June 2010
Location: Perth, WA
Listen to the full interview here.

Ponta and Mather-Brown face off for the camera

Bill Mather-Brown (right) scores a hit against his teammate Frank Ponta (left) with their coach Scott Properjohn acting as referee in this posed shot in Perth, Western Australia. In the team sabre event at the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability.

The first Australian team gold medalists

Frank Ponta (left) and Bill Mather-Brown (right) with their coach Scott Properjohn. At the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Ponta and Mather-Brown won the first ever gold medal by members of an Australian team in international competition for athletes with a disability, in the team sabre event. This posed photo was taken in Perth after the Games.

1957 Stoke Mandeville Games Australian Team list

The members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games – the first ever Australian disability sports team – were:

Athletes:

Officials:

  • John ‘Johnno’ Johnston –  Physiotherapist (WA)
  • Edna Smith –  Nurse (WA)

List of the members of the 1957 Australian team to the Stoke Mandeville Games, with links to the members’ Wikipedia articles.