Louise Sauvage OAM - Athletics Paralympian
Louise Sauvage was a dominant force in women's wheelchair racing for 12 years, from her debut aged 18 at the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona to her retirement after the Athens Olympics in 2004.
She won nine gold and four silver medals at Paralympic Games and twice won Gold in 800m wheelchair demonstration races at Olympic Games (in 1996 and 2000) along with a bronze at Athens in 2004. Her performances elevated Paralympic sport into the spotlight of Australian sport for the first time.
Her record over longer distances is awesome: She won the Boston Marathon four times, Honolulu Marathon three times, Berlin Marathon twice and Los Angeles Marathon once. She set world records from 100 metres to 5000 metres, her last set in 2004, just one month before her retirement.
Louise Sauvage was born with a severe spinal disability called myelodysplasia and underwent more than 20 operations before she was ten.
Despite her disability she followed her elder sister Ann into sport, and both became good junior swimmers, with Louise the only member of their swimming club with a disability.
Her swimming career was cruelly curtailed in 1987 when the scoliosis (progressive spinal curvature) worsened, and at age 14 she had metal rods inserted in her back. Three operations meant months in a hospital bed.
The rods in her back precluded further competitive swimming so she turned to wheelchair track events. In 1990 she won her first World Championships in Assen, Holland, She decided to make sport a full time career, which led to medals at Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens. Aside from these Paralymic and Olympic victories, career highlights were four victories in the Boston marathon involving epic struggles with US racer Jean Driscoll.
Since retiring from international competition Louise has turned her attention to assisting the development of future Paralympic athletes. She is assistant coach to the Australian Wheelchair Track and Road program under long term mentor Andrew Dawes, and in November 2006 was elected to the Board of the Australian Paralympic Committee.