Swimming Australia is up-in-arms in early September after Jacqueline Freney has been overlooked by the International Paralympic Committee in their nominees for the Paralympic Sport Awards. Freney was the 2012 Australian Paralympic Committee’s Athlete of the Year, and won 8 gold medals in 8 events at the 2012 London Paralympics. Freney did not compete at the 2013 IPC Swimming World Championships, however, as part of a 20-swimmer Australian delegation, but these awards are specifically due to recognize achievements at the Paralympic Games, according to the IPC’s own criteria.
Meanwhile, Australia’s wheelchair rugby team and their star player Ryley Batt have both been nominated.
“The APC is excited that the Steelers and Ryley Batt have earned nominations for what is the highest award an athlete can receive, but we are mystified that Jacqueline Freney has not been nominated,” said APC Chief Executive and 2012 Australian Chef de Mission, Jason Hellwig.
“We of course appreciate that this is a very competitive field and that every athlete nominated is worthy but Jacqui won the most gold medals at a Paralympic Games ever and we would like to know how she’s been overlooked.”
“I have written to the IPC’s Chief Executive Xavier Gonzalez seeking clarification as to both the nomination process and criteria.”
Freney won three bronzes at the 2008 Paralympic Games, but in 2012 exploded to win golds in the 100 back, 50 fly, 200 IM, 100 free, 400 free, 50 free, 400 free relay, and 400 medley relay.
The IPC says that they received a record number of nominations, causing for the first time separate awards for male and female athletes. The lone swimmer nominated for any award is Brazil’s Daniel Dias, who won 6 golds of his own, in the Male Athlete of the Year category. The list of nominees is very heavy on track & field athletes.
The competition, meanwhile, is very good in the women’s race. It includes Iran’s Zarah Nemati, who became the first Iranian woman to win gold at either the Olympics or the Paralympics when she won individual gold the recurve bow in London. It also includes Dutch wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer, who won her 4th-straight wheelchair Paralympic title.
Though there are many, many medals available in swimming, and at the Paralympic Games swimmers tend to dominate the medal counts, Freney’s haul was the 6th-most ever earned at a single Games, and the third-most by an athlete competing in only one sport (American Trischa Zorn won an astounding 12 swimming golds in 1988).
Freney had the highest gold medal count of the games, with only Dias’ 6 coming close. Another Australian, Matthew Cowdrey, is a former IPC award winner and won 5 golds in London, plus two silvers and a bronze.