Following the unprecedented success of the Sydney 2000 Summer Paralympics, the APC identified the need to sustain performances by nurturing new talent, providing opportunities for international competition outside the quadrennial games, and building upon the networks of excellence through coaching, sport science and sport medicine.
Two key developments initiated after the Sydney 2000 Games were the policies of mainstreaming sport for the disabled with able-bodied sport, and the inclusion of disability sport as a program at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). Mainstreaming was a practice that integrated athletes with a disability into the structure of able bodied sport. The second major initiative was the establishment of specific disability sports at the AIS. The first Paralympic sport included was the Alpine Ski Program. This initiative contributed to an incredible performance at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Paralympics and, like the initiative in mainstreaming, it established a template for future disability sports to be fully embraced by the AIS system.
The inclusion of the Alpine Ski Program as a disability sport program at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) contributed to an incredible performance at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Paralympics.
Australia sent a team of six, male athletes, all of whom were Alpine skiing competitors, as there was no representation in sledge hockey or Nordic skiing events. Scott Adams, Mark Drinnan, Michael Milton, and Cameron Rahles-Rahbula were all standing Alpine skiers, Peter Boonaerts was a sit skier, and Bartholomew Bunting competed in Alpine events for the visually impaired.
Milton was the Australia’s star performer. Milton competed in four events: downhill (LW2), giant slalom (LW2), slalom (LW2) and super-g (LW2). His performance was perfect, winning gold medals in each event. No Australian winter Paralympian athlete, before or after the Salt Lake City Games, has been able to match Milton’s performance. Australia’s second-most successful athlete was Bartholomew Bunting. Bunting, who has been completely blind since birth, competed with his guide, Nathan Chivers, in the Alpine events. Bunting raced a couple of metres behind his guide who provided auditory cues through a microphone about the intricacies of high-speed skiing on the challenging competition runs. Trust, communication and skills combined to produce two gold medals in the downhill and super-g (B1-3) and a silver medal in the giant slalom (B1-2). Even though other Australian competitors did not medal, the nation earned the highest-ever number of top-ten performances and the most gold medals in a Winter Games, with the team finishing fourth in Alpine skiing ahead of powerhouses France, Switzerland, Italy and Canada.