Push to build on Games success
Australia's Paralympic heroes have called for more international competition at home and hope to capitalise on their London Paralympics success by becoming full-time athletes.
The team returned home yesterday with a haul of 85 medals, 32 of them gold, that enabled Australia to finish fifth on the medal table.
Swimmer Matt Cowdrey, who won an Australian Paralympic record of 13 gold medals after taking five in London, said a number of things could be done to capitalise on the best Paralympic performance since the Sydney 2000 Games.
''In terms of holding a few more international meets in Australia, I think there's now possibly an appetite for Paralympic sport in Australia,'' Cowdrey said.
''For us to actually hold events out here and to have them very well supported would be fantastic. That's the next step for us.''
Australian Paralympic Committee chief executive Jason Hellwig said the London Games had proven there was an appetite for more regular competition at home and that the team had many household names.
''We're looking forward to bringing more Paralympic sport to Australia, but of course we've got to make sure that we get partnerships in place so that we do that and I'm sure that we will,'' Hellwig said.
Dual 100 metres and 200m track athletics gold medallist and world record holder Evan O'Hanlon believed full-time professionalism was within reach.
''I think that Paralympic sport in Australia has to really take a step forward and our athletes become fully professional and able to support themselves easily and on a regular basis,'' O'Hanlon said.
''I think London is a real turning point in the history of Paralympic sport and you can just see how much we've built since Beijing, we're growing exponentially.
''London being London and what it was, our sport is going to go through the roof in the next couple of years and we will become proper professional athletes.''
While Hellwig said none of the 13 sports disappointed and Australia probably did a little better than expected, that didn't give the APC the right to automatically demand increased government funding.
''Government will only invest if we show them a really sound strategy that's realistic,'' Hellwig said.
''We've got to be very efficient with every dollar that we get and we've got to work really hard to engage corporate Australia as well.
''No one has got a right to any investment, be it government or private, you've got to earn it and to make sure that we deliver a great result for people who support us.''
Cowdrey said it was a case of addressing the issue of staying in the spotlight for more than a two-week period every four years.
''It's about now really making sure we make the most of this window that we've got the next couple of weeks and try to find each of ourselves a niche with the Australian public,'' Cowdrey said.
APC president Greg Hartung revealed 60 athletes who just missed out on the London team, were already in training at the AIS in preparation for Rio. AAP