Louise Sauvage coaches Madison de Rozario at the NSWIS High Performance facility at Sydney Olympic Park.

Louise Sauvage, who became a household name throughout Australia by dominating the Track and Road events at the Paralympic Games and at other meets around the globe, will begin the 200-day countdown until the 2024 Paris Games by coaching her Saturday morning group at the Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Track.

With her elite athletes competing in the UAE, Sauvage will be mentoring the squad’s junior and development athletes, sharing with them the benefit of her wisdom and experience.

But she admitted the countdown to Paris is ticking away in the back of her mind.

“As a coach it’s scary to know there’s only 200 days to go,” said Sauvage, pictured above coaching Paralympic champion Madison de Rozario. “I feel there is still a lot of work to be done. It’s now about being very planned as a coach and knowing what you want to achieve in that time frame.”

As a nine-time Paralympic gold medallist and winner of four silver medals, one a piece at Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), and Athens (2004), Sauvage has a rare insight into what her athletes need.

“I suppose they’re looking for guidance from me as their coach,” the NSW Institute of Sport Wheelchair Track and Road coach said with a knowing grin. “But they also want confidence, calmness, and reassurance that we can do this, we can achieve it and we’ll do everything we can from now until competition day.

Louise Sauvage

“Given our restraints and things that happen along the way, plans are always interrupted but we all know those plans can be reworked . . . redone.”

And while her athletes are on a hard road, Sauvage said the sense of achievement of making it to a Paralympic Games outweighs the struggles and sacrifice.

“It’s the highest level of competition you can get to, so to make the team and compete is very special,” she said.

“And the wonderful things are once a Paralympian, you’re always a Paralympian. You’re never a former Paralympian – you forever always acknowledged for making it to the highest level.

“You’re representing your country, and you know you’ve worked hard to get there, to qualify . . . you’re also there with your teammates and your part of history – part of our team.”

The Paralympics have come a long way since German-British neurologist Sir Ludwig Guttman started the Stoke Mandeville Games – a sporting event for people with disabilities – on the same day as the 1948 London Olympics commenced.

The Games evolved into the Paralympics, with Australia winning a total of 10 medals to finish the inaugural Paralympics – the 1960 Games in Rome  – in seventh place. Sauvage said the nation’s “forward thinking” had helped its athletes perform strongly at the Paralympics.

“We’ve been very successful . . .  Sydney was our most successful,” said Sauvage of Australia’s Paralympic record. “We have always been a force, always competitive as a country at the Paralympics. I think we’ve been forward thinking in supporting our athletes.

“Prior to 1960 Sir Ludwig Guttmann, who thought sport played an integral role in getting people back their life, [and created the Stoke Mandeville Games]. I suppose Australia took the same demeanor in that was a fantastic way of thinking, because we hooked on to [Guttman’s philosophy] and in 1960 we had athletes already involved in sport to participate in [Rome].

“I believe Sydney was a turning point for the Paralympics – and I’m totally bias when it comes to Sydney – but I think it was a turning point for the Paralympics in the way Paralympians should be represented and treated; the way the Games were held by the host country.

Louise Sauvage

“Sydney was a phenomenal experience on all levels – the media, the general public’s response, and the way it was perceived. It was great turning point and I think it has gone from strength to strength since Sydney.”

Daniel Lane, NSWIS

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