Following a comprehensive restructuring of the Australian Paralympic Committee in 2002-03, the APC took total responsibility for the selection of athletes for Athens, with the board signing off on selections. The APC established general and specific sport selection criteria with guidelines that required individual athletes to be ranked internationally in the top six, and teams to be ranked in the top five. Mainstreamed sports, through their National Sporting Organisations, and non-mainstreamed sports through advisory committees, recommended athletes and support staff for approval by the APC. The Australian Paralympic Team for Athens, comprised of 151 athletes (91 men and 60 women) and 88 staff, was very lean – only half of the size of the Sydney 2000 contingent – as a result of the strict selection criteria and the absence of athletes with an intellectual disability. The APC board also took a more active role in the team itself, with Paul Bird reappointed to the role of Chef de Mission and Ken Brown, Nick Dean and Doug Denby in Assistant Chef de Mission roles. Not only was the team leaner in size, but outfitting was more modest than in Sydney as the APC sought to improve its financial standing.
Australia collected 101 medals in total, placing second overall and fifth on the gold-medal tally. The rising star was Matthew Cowdrey, who, at 15, was the youngest member of the Australian contingent. He won a total of seven medals (three gold, two silver, and two bronze), established two world and Paralympic records in the pool, and carried the Australian flag at the closing ceremony. Tim Sullivan continued his impressive career, winning four gold medals on the track in athletics to add to five gold medals from Sydney. His Athens performance was recognised when he was named Paralympian of the Year in 2004. There were several other multiple medallists: swimmers Ben Austin, Chantel Wolfenden and Prue Watt all won six medals; track athlete Heath Francis won five medals; and cyclist Lindy Hou secured four medals. Six athletes won three medals each: Don Elgin, Neil Fuller, Kurt Fearnley and Darren Thrupp in athletics, and Kieran Modra and Chris Scott in cycling. China took over Australia’s spot as the leading nation in athletics, but Australia dominated the cycling for the second Games in a row and cycling head coach Kevin McIntosh was named the APC Coach of the Year.
Australia collected 101 medals in total at the 2004 Athens Summer Paralympics, placing second overall and fifth on the gold-medal tally.
Date: September 2004