Australian skier Toby Kane was just two when he lost his leg in a car accident, returning to hospital again and again for operations on his growing body. The care and dedication shown by the medical staff inspired him to become a doctor and this year, Dr Kane will graduate with a degree in medicine.
But for the past 10 days in Sochi, the Paralympian has been winning other honours, becoming the first Australian to receive the prestigious International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) award for excellence, the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award, which is presented to athletes who best exemplify the Paralympic spirit, both professionally and personally.
Kane was presented with the award at night’s Closing Ceremony, while Dutch snowboarder Bibian Mentel-Spee was the female recipient.
The IPC said Kan had played a key leadership role within the Australian team over a long period, particularly after snowboarder Matthew Robinson died in a training accident a few weeks before the Games, casting a pall over the team.
“I feel very proud to have been nominated by my National Paralympic Committee and I feel very proud and humbled to be nominated for an award about the Paralympic spirit,” Kane said.
“I really believe in sport for people with a disability in terms of what it can show the world.”
Last night’s honour caps a remarkable 15-year career for the 27-year-old Victorian, spanning three Paralympics. Kane was 19 on debut at Torino where won bronze in the Super G. This week he won Australia’s first medal in Sochi, a bronze in the Super Combined, which combines the times in the Super-G and slalom. Team-mate Mitchell Gourley was fifth.
Australia’s second medal came on the final day of competition when vision-impaired skier Jess Gallagher won bronze in the Giant Slalom, becoming the first Australian female skier to win a Giant Slalom medal.
It also adds to the bronze Gallagher won in the slalom at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Last night’s closing ceremony was also special for Manly snowboarder Ben Tudhope, 14, who became Australia’s youngest flag bearer at a Summer or Winter Paralympics.
Overall, it was a tough Paralympics for the Australians, who as well as coping with the loss of Robinson, also saw two of the 11-member team ruled out on the eve of the games from training accidents. Race crashes also ended the hopes of several strong medal chances during the competition.
The Paralympcs now head to South Korea in 2018.
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