Australia at the 1968 Summer Paralympics
|Australia at the
1968 Summer Paralympics
|NPC||Australian Paralympic Committee|
|in Tel Aviv|
|Competitors||32 in 10 sports|
|Summer Paralympics appearances (overview)|
Australia competed at the 1968 Summer Paralympics in Tel Aviv, Israel. The team finished fourth in the medal table and won a total of 38 medals; 15 gold, 16 silver and 7 bronze. Australia participated in ten sports and won medals in 7 sports.
Originally intended to be held in Mexico City, the 1968 Summer Paralympics were moved to Tel Aviv due to political unrest and financial issues plaguing the Mexican organising committee. Although there was disappointment expressed at not being able to have to Paralympics in the 'Olympic' city of that year, the Tel Aviv organising committee worked tirelessly to provide a first class experience for the athletes and their support staff, even financing 50% of the Australian team's travel expenses. The Australian team however had to be content with dubious living conditions for the duration of the competition, being housed in an underground carpark with most of the athletes sleeping on military style camp mattresses. Despite the poor accommodation the athletes performed well, with world records falling and numerous Australian competitors taking home a swag of gold medals (see 'Medalists' table below). In an attempt to depoliticise the games following Israel's Six Day War there was to be no official medal tally in Tel Aviv, however the Australian's haul of 38 medals earned them fourth spot on the 'unofficial' placings.
- 1 Background
- 2 Opening Ceremony
- 3 Team
- 4 Medalists
- 5 Events
- 6 Closing Ceremony
- 7 Post Games
- 8 Reunions
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
Following Mexico City's withdrawal as hosts of the Games in 1965, Buenos Aires, New York, and Tel Aviv all put forth offers to host the 1968 Games. Tel Aviv, Israel was eventually decided upon as the host city, with the President of the Israeli Stoke Mandeville Committee Arieh Fink, stating that the Israeli Government was most enthusiastic about being selected, given that it coincided with the twentieth anniversary of the State of Israel, as well as the twentieth anniversary of the Stoke Mandeville Games. This also signified the first time in Paralympic history that the Games were not held alongside the Summer Olympics in the same host city.
The opening ceremony for the 1968 Paralympic Games took place on November 4, 1968 in the University of Jerusalem Stadium. Twenty thousand spectators were present at the ceremony, which included an introduction and lap of honour of competing athletes, a military band performance, and folk dancing accompanied by a girls choir. Deputy Prime Minister of Israel Yigal Allon delivered the welcome message, with Arieh Fink, and Founder and President of the Games, Sir Ludwig Guttmann also giving speeches. Giving the oath on behalf of the athletes was Israeli's Zvi Ben-Zvi, one of the pioneering Israeli Paralympians during the 1954 Stoke Mandeville Games, having becoming a paraplegic serving in the Arab-Israeli War.
The team comprised 32 members – 23 men and 9 women:
Women - Pam Smith, Di Workman, Cherrie Ireland (née Loydstrom), Elaine Schreiber, Marion O'Brien, Daphne Hilton (née Ceeney), Elizabeth Edmondson, Lorraine Dodd, Sally Lamb
Men - Kevin Coombs, Kevin Cunningham, Bill Mather-Brown, Bruno Moretti, Frank Ponta, Gary Hooper, Vic Renalson, Kevin Munro, Roy Fowler, Kevin Bawden, Brian Chambers, Robert McIntyre, John Beattie, Peter Burt, Allan McLucas, Tony South, Alan Conn, Felix Blums, Jeff Simmonds, Don Watts, John Newton, John Martin, Miko Taminin
The athletes were supported by a large, dedicated support staff, a mixture of experienced practitioners and fresh faces:
– Dr John Yeo (Team Leader), George Bedbrook(Senior Medical Officer), John 'Johnno' Johnston (Team Manager), Elizabeth Kosmala (née Richards)(Assistant Secretary), Mr Ashley Coops (Secretary), Mrs Aileen Coops (Attendant), Mr E. Kyle (Assistant Medical Officer), Miss D. Newton (Physiotherapist), Jan Hooper (Nurse), Kevin Betts (Attendant), M. Wilson (Attendant), William 'Bill' Gibbs (Sports Instructor), J. McCafferty (Attendant), Miss Janet Tyler (nurse), Miss N. Joyce (nurse), J. Hooper (Assistant Sports instructor, Baggage Marshall) and S.C. Chase (Assistant Baggage Marshall).
Kevin Coombs commented that the Australian team didn't have the sponsorship or training camps that other countries were providing their athletes. He noted that due to inadequate funding to be eligible athletes had to participate in several sports. Coombs also noted that the accommodation was very rough with the team being housed in an undercover car park, with one toilet and shower for 32 men and camp stretches with straw mattresses.
Tony South took home a gold medal in the Men's Albion Round Open with a score of 800, beating out his Dutch opponent by two points. South narrowly missed out on another gold medal in the FITA Round event, this time finishing second to his Dutch competitor.
Australia's female archers didn't fare so well, with neither athlete challenging for a spot on the podium.
Australia represented by:
Men – Peter Burt, Brian Chambers, Kevin Coombs, Kevin Cunningham, Gary Hooper, John Martin, Bill Mather-Brown, Robert McIntyre, Allan McLucas, Bruno Moretti, Kevin Munro, Frank Ponta, Vic Renalson, Noel Simmons
Women – Lorraine Dodd, Daphne Hilton, Cherrie Ireland, Marion O'Brien, Elaine Schreiber, Pam Smith, Di Workman 
Athletics was Australia's most successful pursuit in Tel Aviv, finishing with a total of 19 medals made up of 7 gold, 7 silver, and 5 bronze.
Although Athletics wasn't her primary pursuit, Lorraine Dodd still managed to find herself on the medal podium twice, earning a silver medal in the Women's Slalom A event, and a bronze in the Women's 60m Wheelchair dash A. Dodd actually finished with the same time as the silver medallist in the 60m dash, but upon review was awarded the bronze.
Gary Hooper competed in eight different track and field disciplines, earning a medal in three. Having finished second in the heats of the Men's 100m Wheelchair Dash A to compatriot Bruno Moretti, Hooper came through to finish first in the final ahead of Moretti. Hooper and Moretti were also part of the 4x40m relay team that won a silver medal, only being beaten by a world record time set by the United States. Hooper's other silver medal finish came in the Men's Shotput B.
Australia's men also saw some success in the slalom events, finishing one-two in both the A and B division slalom events. In the A division, Moretti beat out Bill Mather-Brown for the gold medal, while Robert McIntyre finished in the gold medal position two seconds ahead of John Martin.
Australia's only competitors in the Dartchery competed in the Mixed Pairs event, with Kevin Bawden and Roy Fowler being paired up, and the two gold medallists from the individual events, Tony South and Alan Conn, teaming up. South and Conn made their way to the gold medal match against the US team of Geissinger and Kelderhouse, with the Australian pair coming up short and taking home the silver medal. The Australian team of Bawden and Fowler made it to the Round of 16 where they were overcome by the eventual gold medal winning US pair.
Australia represented by:
Men – Felix Blums, Brian Chambers, Gary Hooper, Bill Mather-Brown, Allan McLucas, Frank Ponta, Jeff Simmonds, Don Watts
Women – Lorraine Dodd, Elizabeth Edmondson, Daphne Hilton, Sally Lamb, Cherrie Ireland, 
Australia's females dominated the pool, with Lorraine Dodd and Elizabeth Edmondson setting five World Records between them at the Games. Dodd set three World Records on her way to three gold medals in the 25m Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Freestyle Class 2 complete events. Edmondson's two gold medals also came in World Record time; one in the 50m Class 4 incomplete Freestyle with a time of 44.1 seconds, and the other in the 100m Open Freestyle event, finishing in a time of 1 minute 33 seconds.
Australia represented by:
Men – Kevin Bawden, Alan Conn, Kevin Coombs, John Martin, Bill Mather-Brown, Allan McLucas, Bruno Moretti, Jimmy Newton, Tony South, Don Watts
Women – Lorraine Dodd, Daphne Hilton, Cherrie Ireland, Marion O'Brien, Elaine Schreiber, Pam Smith 
The Australian pair of Marion O'Brien and Elaine Schreiber won their way to the gold medal match where they played Great Britain's pairing of Bryant and Carol Barnard, eventually going down and finishing in second place and the silver medal.
Australia represented by:
Men – Kevin Bawden, Peter Burt, Brian Chambers, Kevin Cunningham, Kevin Coombs, Bill Mather-Brown, John Martin, Robert McIntyre, Bruno Moretti, Frank Ponta, Noel Simmons, Don Watts
In Pool D, Australia played Italy and Argentina, losing to the former 37 by 23, and to the latter, 24 to 20. As a result, Australia did not proceed to the medal rounds, but played Sweden in a classification event, in which the Australian team beat Sweden 43–22, and were placed ninth overall.
The closing ceremony took place at the Tel Aviv Fair Grounds on November 13. Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon and the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Mordechai Namir, were both in attendance for the ceremony to see trophies presented to athletes, as well as a display by dancers from three local kibbutzim. Allon thanked participants for their involvement and contribution to world unity, and declared the Games closed.
On the way home, the team spent two days in Bangkok, followed by three days in Singapore. While in Singapore, the Australian team demonstrated sport to local paraplegics.
In June 2013, four South Australia members of the 1968 Australian Paralympics Team relived memories as part of the Australian Paralympic Committee history project. Archer Pam McLeod née Smith and wheelchair sprinter Kevin Munro were joined by Libby Kosmala and team nurse Janet Tyler. Kosmala who went on to compete in a record eleven Paralympic Games commented that: In those days athletes had to use their everyday chair to compete in, now they've got specialized chairs for all sports from sprinting to basketball to shooting. The 1968 Games were the first Games where South Australia athletes had been selected for Australia. `
- "Medal Standings Tel Aviv 1968 Paralympic Games". International Paralympic Committee. Archived from the original on 27 June 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
- Brittain, Ian. From Stoke-Mandeville to Stratford: A History of the Summer Paralympic Games. Illinois: Common Ground, 2012.
- Bailey, Steven. Athlete First: A History of the Paralympic Movement. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, 2008
- Coombs, Kevin. A Fortunate Accident: A Boy from Balranald. Melbourne: Aboriginal Affairs Victoria, 2005
- Brittain, Ian. From Stoke-Mandeville to Stratford: A History of the Summer Paralympic Games. Illinois: Common Ground, 2012
- 1968 Paralympics Games Papers of Elizabeth Edmondson. Perth: Australian Paraplegic Council. 1968.
- Coombs, Kevin (2005). A fortunate accident – a boy from Balranald. Melbourne: Aboriginal Press Victoria. pp. 31–32.
- "Australian results at 1968 Tel Aviv Paralympics". International Paralympic Committee Historical Results Database. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
- International Paralympic Committee: Paralympic Results
- Labanowich, Stan; Thiboutot, Armand. Wheelchairs Can Jump! A History of Wheelchair Basketball: Paralympic Games (Men) 1960–1980 (PDF). Retrieved 26 May 2012.
- "World Record to Our Archer". The Age. Sydney, New South Wales. 13 November 1968. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
- Report and accounts. Perth: Paraplegic Association of Western Australia. 1968. p. 8.
- Homfray, Reece (24 June 2013). "First SA Paralympians reunite 45 years on". Adelaide Advertiser.
Several oral histories are available online from Australian athletes who competed at the Games.
- Kevin Coombs interviewed by Robin Poke in the Australian Centre for Paralympic Studies oral history project, National Library of Australia, 2010
- Daphne Hilton (nee Ceeney) interviewed by Robin Poke in the Australian Centre for Paralympic Studies oral history project, National Library of Australia, 2010
- Gary Hooper interviewed by Rob Willis in the Australian Centre for Paralympic Studies oral history project, National Library of Australia, 2010
- Frank Ponta interviewed by Robin Poke in the Australian Centre for Paralympic Studies oral history project, National Libraty of Australia, 2010
- Bill Mather-Brown interviewed by Robin Poke in the Australian Centre for Paralympic Studies oral history project, National Library of Australia, 2010
- Bruno Moretti interviewed by Nikki Henningham in the Australian Centre for Paralympic Studies oral history project, National Library of Australia, 2010
- John Martin interviewed by Ian Jobling in the Australian Centre for Paralympic Studies oral history project, National Library of Australia, 2012
- Kevin Cunningham interviewed by Ian Jobling in the Australian Centre for Paralympic Studies oral history project, National Library of Australia, 2011