Australia at the Nagano Winter Paralympics 1998

Members of the 1998 Australian Winter Paralympic Team were nominated after a series of training camps and competition at the Disabled WinterSport Australia Nationals held in Mt Hotham, Victoria. The team commenced training in Australia but, due to unfavourable conditions, they relocated to the northern hemisphere. The team initially comprised six male alpine skiers, but injury and illness forced the withdrawal of Rod Hacon and David Munk, respectively, just prior to the Games. The loss of these two seasoned Paralympians was a blow to the team; only one of the remaining four skiers – James Patterson – had previously competed in a Winter Paralympics. The loss of these athletes was emblematic of an overall changing of the guard in terms of athletes, as recognised retrospectively in the Australian Paralympic Committee’s 1998 annual report: ‘The nucleus of the Lillehammer Paralympic Team re-gathered at the 1996 world championships in Austria, however this event became the swan-song for many of the team stalwarts rather than an important stepping stone towards the 1998 Nagano Paralympic Games preparation – in fact it lost momentum.’

Australia was represented by four male alpine skiers: James Patterson and novice Paralympians Anthony Bonaccurso, Matthew Nicholls and Alastair Mars. Australia finished equal 16th (with Denmark) of 21 nations on the overall medal tally. Team captain James Patterson, an outstanding LW9 skier, won Australia’s two medals – gold in the Men’s Downhill and bronze in the Men’s Slalom. At the conclusion of the games, in which Australia won fewer medals than in the two previous Winter Games, the Australian Paralympic Committee developed a plan to improve Australia’s medal count at future Winter Games. The entire winter program was reviewed resulting in a focus on talent identification, continuity of coaching and ongoing, well-structured training. A year-round training program was developed to improve physical conditioning for skiing athletes. Funding was secured from the Australian Paralympic Committee, the Australian Sports Commission, and the New South Wales Department of Sport and Recreation.

Australia was represented by four male alpine skiers, only one of whom had previously competed in a Winter Paralympics and won fewer medals than in the two previous Winter Games.