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Freney favourite to win top Paralympian
13:10 AEST Mon Nov 5 2012

She won eight gold medals in London, but swimmer Jacqueline Freney faces tough competition for the Australian Paralympian of the Year title.

The Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) on Monday announced 20-year-old Freney, fellow swimmer Matt Cowdrey, Evan O'Hanlon and Kelly Cartwright (athletics), Felicity Johnson (cycling) and Ryley Batt (wheelchair rugby) as finalists for the top award to be presented at a gala function in Sydney on Thursday night.

The awards honour the achievements of the Australian team who finished fifth on the medal tally at the London Paralympic Games.

It will be hard to topple Queenslander Freney, who won her staggering eight gold medals from eight events, with three world records, to become the most decorated athlete of the entire Games.

Veteran Cowdrey is also a strong contender after bringing home five gold, two silver and one bronze medal and becoming Australia's most successful Paralympian.

O'Hanlon was honoured as Australia's flag bearer for the Games closing ceremony after winning the coveted 100m and 200m track sprint double gold, both in world record times.

Long jumper Cartwright entered her second Paralympic Games as the reigning world champion in the long jump and 100m sprint.

Competing in a combined long jump classification, 23-year-old Cartwright stunned her rivals with a leap 19cm past her world record and personal best to win gold.

The Geelong athlete also went on to claim silver in the 100m.

Cycling's Felicity Johnson won gold in the 1km time trial with pilot Stephanie Morton, topping her silver medal from 2008 in Beijing.

Batt finished the Paralympics with 160 goals as the leading goal-scorer in the wheelchair rugby tournament, 31 clear of the next best.

His uncompromising playing style led the Steelers to their first Paralympic gold medal.

Awards will also be presented to the best male, female and junior athlete, best coach and best team of 2012.


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