Wheelchair Racing | Inducted: 2010
Born Perth, WA
18 September 1973
Through her deeds in wheelchair racing, Louise Sauvage became Australia's best known Paralympic athlete. During an international career that spanned 14 years, she amassed a glittering array of results, headlined by nine gold and four silver medals across four Paralympic Games. She also won the 800m demonstration events at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics as well as silver in the 800m at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. During her career she set world records in various events from 100m to 5000m.
She was born with a severe congenital spinal condition, known as myelodysplasia, which inhibits the function of the lower half of the body and resulted in her enduring over 20 operations before the age of ten. Despite her disability, she was a good junior swimmer. But her swimming career was curtailed in 1987 when she underwent surgery to have rods inserted in her back.
Unable to continue with swimming, Sauvage turned to wheelchair racing. In 1990, at the age of 16, she competed internationally for the first time, winning gold and setting a world record in the 100m at the IPC World Championships in The Netherlands. It was the start of a hugely successful international career.
At the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics she claimed gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 400m along with silver in the 800m. By the time of the Atlanta Paralympics four years later she had bypassed the sprint events in favour of longer distances. The move proved highly successful with a further four gold medals (400m, 800m, 1500m & 5000m). At the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, where she lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony, she finished second in the 800m, her first loss over the distance in eight years. She bounced back to claim gold in the 1500m and 5000m. Her international career ended following the 2004 Athens Paralympics where she won silver medals in the 400m and 800m.
Aside from her successes on the track, Sauvage was also a dominant performer on the international marathon stage. Included in her results were victories in the Boston (four times), Honolulu (three times), Berlin (twice) and Los Angeles marathons.
Sauvage was named in International Female Wheelchair Athlete of the Year in 1999 and 2000 and was the ABC Sports Star of the Year in 1993. In 1998, she was named Young Australian of the Year.