As an Australian, I was brought up to believe that sport was in our blood, that it was our birthright and the natural order of things was that we were on top with daylight second, third and fourth.
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Dylan Alcott became the first Australian athlete to win two gold medals at the Rio Paralympics but more noteworthy is that he has won gold medals in two different sports.
Alcott who was born with a tumour around his spinal cord which left him a paraplegic and wheelchair bound took up wheelchair basketball as a 14-year-old. As a 17-year-old, he was a member of the Rollers, Australian wheelchair basketball team that won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
He continued playing wheelchair basketball winning gold at the 2010 World Championships and silver at the 2012 London Paralympics.
In 2014, he returned to wheelchair tennis where he had a very successful junior career and quickly became world number one in quad singles. Alcott returned to wheelchair tennis with the goal of winning the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympics in the men’s quad singles.
At the Rio Paralympics, he teamed with fellow Victorian Heath Davidson to upset the triple Paralympic quad doubles gold medallists David Wagner and Nick Turner in a tightly contested gold medal match 4–6, 6–4, 7–5. Twenty fours later, he defeated Andy Lapthorne in the men’s quad singles gold medal match 6-3, 6-4.
In watching quad wheelchair tennis throughout the Paralympics, it looks to be a very physically demanding game as the ball is allowed to bounce twice and this means there are long rallies and lots of pushing the wheelchair across the court.
Alcott in his gold medal post-match interview promoted the benefits of Paralympic sport by stating that
“For anybody with a disability, get into sport and get around it, cause it changed my life and for any able-bodied person who hasn’t watched Paralympic sport – you are missing out, because not only are we inspirational, which is what you hear all the time, you can stuff that because we’re entertaining elite athletes and we put on a show”.
An earlier article on The Roar highlighted the fact that many Australian Paralympians compete in more than one sport over their career. Already at the Rio Paralympics, Jessica Gallagher became the first Australian to medal at a Winter and Summer Paralympics after winning the bronze medal in the women’s 1km time trial.
In winning gold in the men’s quad doubles and men’s quad singles, Alcott joins four other Australian athletes that have won gold medals in two different sports.
Daphne Hilton (nee Ceeney) won two swimming gold medals at the first Paralympics held in Rome in 1960 and followed this up by winning the women’s table tennis doubles C at the 1964 Tokyo Paralympics.
Vic Renalson won weightlifting gold medals at three successive Paralympics – 1968 to 1976 and won two athletics gold medals in 1968 in men’s discus A and men’s club throw A.
Roy Fowler had a long time span between winning gold medals. He won three swimming gold medals at the 1964 Paralympics and then won two gold and one gold in lawn bowls in 1984 and 1988 respectively.
The most recent athlete to achieve this feat was Greg Smith. He won three gold medals in wheelchair track events at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics and he turned to wheelchair rugby where he won a silver medal in 2008 and gold medal in 2012.
At the Rio Paralympics, Lisel Tesch is nearly in this group of five athletes. Tesch has won two silver medals and a bronze in wheelchair basketball and switched to sailing where she teamed with Daniel Fitzgibbon to win the Skud 18 at the 2012 Paralympics. At the half-way mark in Rio, they are holding the gold medal position in the Skud18.
There are numerous other Australian Paralympians to medal in more than one sport. However, as previously stated Alcott is now part of an exclusive club of “five”.
If you watch Alcott play, you can see so much determination and passion. It is little surprise he is now a gold medallist in two sports. Alcott is very proud of his disability and said “If I could take a magic pill that would mean I’m not in a wheelchair anymore, you couldn’t pay me enough to take it – the Dylan in the wheelchair is the same as the Dylan without.”.