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Aust chasing top five Paralympics finish
Tom Wald
14:08 AEST Thu Aug 23 2012

Don't mention the medal table.

After watching Australia's silver and bronze-laden Olympic team cop criticism back home, the Paralympic team is understandably wary of making grand predictions before the London Games open on Wednesday.

The team's chef de mission Jason Hellwig said the nation was hoping to match its fifth placing in Beijing but that a dip in medals shouldn't be a major surprise.

"We won 23 gold medals and 79 overall in Beijing so if we go close to that I would be delighted," he said.

"If we go past that, I will be doing cartwheels.

"I think we have the potential to be top five but we could just as easily be 12th."

The national team's decline in fortunes since the 2000 Sydney Games has been sharper than the Olympic team.

Hellwig says that is largely Australia's fault.

"The world has come alive to Paralympic sport and Sydney was largely responsible for that," he said.

"The great legacy that we have left behind is that we have made it harder for ourselves to win medals, which is a great thing."

"Countries are investing seriously in Paralympic sport and there are 25-30 countries who have got major, major high performance programs."

Australia will field its largest team for an overseas Paralympics in front of the best supported Games in history.

Over 2.3 million tickets have been sold with London organisers some 200,000 tickets away from the first ever sold-out Paralympics.

In the, at times, cynical age of professional sport, the Paralympics provide a refreshing reminder of the uplifting power of sport.

Instead of pampered and preening sports stars, the Games always provide emotive stories of survival and revival.

"There is this authenticity and this soul that people are drawn to because the journey of a Paralympian is remarkable," Hellwig said.

"It is unique and powerful.

"We are showing that disability is a very normal part of being human.

"I think that is a wonderful new contemporary way for society to recognise itself rather than seeing disability as this marginal section over here."


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