Fearn­ley is an in­spi­ra­tion

AUS­TRALIAN WHEEL­CHAIR RACER KURT FEARN­LEY THE FIRST ATH­LETE WITH A DIS­ABIL­ITY TO WIN THE DON AWARD

Shepparton News - - SPORT -

Kurt Fearn­ley’s un­ques­tioned sta­tus as one of the most in­spi­ra­tional sports­peo­ple ever to don the green and gold has been made of­fi­cial.

The wheel­chair racer has be­come the first ath­lete with a dis­abil­ity to win The Don Award, cap­ping a ca­reer which in­cludes three Par­a­lympic gold medals, seven world ti­tles and an as­ton­ish­ing 35 marathon tri­umphs across 10 coun­tries.

Fearn­ley won gold in the marathon and sil­ver in the 1500 m at the Gold Coast Com­mon­wealth Games on his in­ter­na­tional swan­song in the green and gold.

Fearn­ley was not at Crown Pal­la­dium for the Sport Aus­tralia Hall of Fame func­tion on Thurs­day to ac­cept the hon­our in per­son.

But Fearn­ley, 37, had a pretty good ex­cuse, hav­ing cho­sen to re­main in the United States af­ter rac­ing in the Chicago marathon last week­end to spend time with wife Sheri­dan and young chil­dren Harry and Amelia.

‘‘I recog­nise that I am the first within the Par­a­lympic move­ment to re­ceive this award,’’ Fearn­ley said in his ac­cep­tance speech.

‘‘I am in­cred­i­bly grate­ful to have been given this op­por­tu­nity and I guar­an­tee I will not be the last.’’

The Don is awarded an­nu­ally to the ath­lete who most in­spired Aus­tralia, with Fearn­ley edg­ing out seven other fi­nal­ists — Matil­das su­per­star Sam Kerr, In­di­anapo­lis 500 win­ner Will Power, F1 star Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, crick­eter Ell­yse Perry, Aus­tralian men's hockey cap­tain Mark Knowles, para-triath­lete Lau­ren Parker and wheel­chair racer Madi­son de Rozario.

For­mer Aus­tralian cricket cap­tain and broad­cast­ing le­gend Richie Be­naud was posthu­mously named the 40th Le­gend of Aus­tralian sport.

He was only the third crick­eter to re­ceive the hon­our, join­ing Sir Don­ald Brad­man — af­ter whom the The Don Award is named — and Keith Miller.

Be­naud was unan­i­mously rec­om­mended for Le­gend sta­tus in 2008, but asked that it be post­poned un­til he fin­ished work­ing.

He died in April, 2015, aged 84.

‘‘This would’ve made him ex­tremely thrilled and hon­oured be­cause he had such re­spect for both Brad­man and Miller,’’ Be­naud’s wife Daphne said.

‘‘The fam­ily is most hon­oured by it, too. We’re de­lighted.’’

Soc­ceroos star Harry Kewell, tour­ing car driver Al­lan Mof­fat, surfer Wendy Botha, rugby league great Dar­ren Lock­yer, rower Drew Ginn and bas­ket­baller Robyn Ma­her were in­ducted as ath­lete mem­bers of the SAHOF.

Join­ing them in the Hall of Fame were horse trainer Gai Water­house and ad­min­is­tra­tor Sam Coffa.

Pic­ture: AAP/Daniel Pock­ett

Hall of famers: (from back left) lan Mof­fat, Drew Ginn, Dar­ren Lock­yer and Sam Coffa; (front) Gai Water­house, Wendy Botha, Dawn Fraser and Robyn Ma­her at the Na­tional Sports Mu­seum at the MCG.

Pic­ture: AAP/Dean Lewins

Top award: Wheel­chair racer Kurt Fearn­ley has be­come the first ath­lete with a dis­abil­ity to win The Don Award.

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