Swimming | Inducted: 2006
Born: South Perth, W.A.
2 October, 1974
Born with cerebral palsy, Priya Cooper began swimming at a young age as a form of therapy. It was to result in a glittering international career that saw her win nine Paralympics gold medals along with a host of world championships and world records. Principally a freestyler, she was also a strong medley swimmer.
In 1991, she was encouraged to compete in the National Wheelchair Games, where she won nine gold medals. That success focused her attention on the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics where she won three gold and two silver medals, as well as setting two world records. It was a stunning entry into international competition, and as the most successful Australian athlete at the Games she was accorded the honour of carrying the flag at the closing ceremony.
Two years later at the World Championships in Malta, she set four world records in taking gold in each of her five events. She was selected as captain of the Australian team that contested the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics. She was again Australia's most successful athlete, winning five gold, one silver and one bronze medal. She set world records in the 400m freestyle, 4 x 100m freestyle relay and 200m individual medley. At the 1998 World Championships in New Zealand she won three gold and two silver medals, setting world records in the 400m and 800m freestyle events.
In September 1999, Cooper moved to Sydney to train for the 2000 Games. She sustained a shoulder injury in December that required surgery and kept her out of the pool until April 2000. She recovered in time to contest her third and final Paralympics, winning the 400m freestyle and claiming bronze medals in the 100m freestyle, 4 x 100 freestyle relay and 4 x 100m medley relay.