Australia at the Geilo Winter Paralympics 1980

At the 1980 Geilo Winter Paralympics, the issues that Ron Finneran had faced at the Games in 1976 had mostly been resolved, and a wider range of disability groups were able to participate. International sporting events, such as the 1975 FESPIC Games and the 1976 Summer Paralympic Games, and the groups such as the International Sports Organisation for the Disabled (ISOD), had encouraged and opened their doors to participation for multiple disability groups. As well, the reign of Dr Ludwig Guttmann as the undisputed pioneer, mentor and leader of disability sport was coming to a close. Australia sent two competitors to Geilo. Kyrra Grunnsund was a leg amputee who competed in alpine skiing and cross country events – the only Australian to ever compete in both disciplines, let alone at the same Games – and Peter Rickards was a vision impaired cross-country skier. Ron Finneran was Chef de Mission, Team Manager, and Captain of the Australian team. The team benefited from the formation of the Australian Disabled Skiers Federation in 1978, and from the affiliation with the Australian Ski Federation. This was an important relationship, as it ensured the skiers and manager had the same uniform as their able-bodied counterparts at the Winter Olympic Games.

As in 1976, athletes competed in alpine skiing for amputees and cross-country skiing for blind and visually impaired competitors. Additionally, a new sport, ice sledge racing, was held for both men and women on a track that was laid over a cinder running track at a local high school. Those with spinal cord injuries and polio were given opportunities in cross-country skiing and sledge racing. Sledge downhill racing was added as a demonstration event. Norway topped the medal tally, and although Australia’s athletes won no medals, it was the first of four Winter Paralympics for Kyrra Grunnsund.

Australia sent two competitors to Geilo – Kyrra Grunnsund and Peter Rickards.