Fearnley is an inspiration
AUSTRALIAN WHEELCHAIR RACER KURT FEARNLEY THE FIRST ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY TO WIN THE DON AWARD
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.
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.
Top award: Wheelchair racer Kurt Fearnley has become the first athlete with a disability to win The Don Award.