Athlete


Date Inducted: 11 Oct 2007
Sport: Athletics Paralympian
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Louise Sauvage OAM - Athletics Paralympian

Louise Sauvage was a dominant force in women's wheelchair racing for over 14 years, from her debut aged 16 at the 1990 IPC World Championships in Athletics to her retirement after the Athens Paralympics in 2004.

She won nine gold and four silver medals at Paralympic Games, twice won gold in 800m wheelchair demonstration races at Olympic Games (in 1996 and 2000) along with a bronze at Athens in 2004 and Commonwealth Games silver in 2002. 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 world record in 2004, just one month before her retirement.

Louise was born with her disability 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 scoliosis (progressive spinal curvature) worsened, and at age 14 she had metal rods inserted into 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 and set her first world record from which, and against what many others considered “a phase that she was going through”, Louise decided to make sport her full-time career.

Since retiring from international competition, Louise turned her attention to coaching with the NSW Institute of Sport assisting with the development of future Paralympic athletes. She is currently the assistant coach to the Australian Wheelchair Track and Road program and is now a highly respected World Championship gold medal winning coach.

Louise an inductee in the International Paralympic, Australian Paralympic and Athletic Australia Halls of Fame, is a Legend within the NSW Hall of Champions, was Australian Female Athlete of the Year in 1999, International Female Athlete of the Year Disability in 1999 and 2000 and the inaugural Laureus Awards World Sports Person of the Year with a Disability in 2000.

 

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When considering the stature of an athlete or for that matter any person, I set great store in certain qualities which I believe to be essential in addition to skill. They are that the person conducts his of her life with dignity, with integrity, courage, and perhaps most of all, with modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, and competitiveness.