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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 July, 2004, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Flashback to Sydney

The Australian love of all things athletic and the country's success in disability sport seemed to guarantee the first Games of the new millennium would be the best ever.

With 550 gold medals up for grabs, 3,824 athletes taking part and 1.2m spectators tickets sold, Sydney 2000 was certainly the biggest ever.

It also marked a new high point for Great Britain, who claimed their best medal haul since the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul.

They brought home 41 gold medals, 43 silver and 47 bronze to beat the total of 122 medals they achieved at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

Among the stars was Tanni Grey Thompson, who became Britain's most successful athlete at the Games by repeating her Barcelona feat of four wheelchair gold medals with four more in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m races.

1. Australia - 63 golds
2. Great Britain - 41 golds
3. Spain - 39 golds
Sydney also marked the appearance of a new generation of British champions, including Lee Pearson who won three from three possible gold medals in the equestrian competition.

Teenage sensation Lloyd Upsdell made his mark in Sydney with a golden sprint double and two world records, while David Roberts was Britain's most successful swimmer of the Games with three golds.

But it was not all joy for Team GB as the men's wheelchair basketball team found out when they missed out on a medal in heartbreaking fashion.

They lost to eventual gold medallists Canada in the semi-finals and then were denied a bronze by the USA who scored a miracle shot in the dying seconds of the third/fourth place play-off.

Elsewhere though, Australian Louise Sauvage confirmed her status as one of the greatest wheelchair athletes ever.

Having been chosen to light the cauldron at the Paralympic opening ceremony and inspired by a large home crowd, Sauvage claimed gold in both the 1500m and 5,000m.

She also tasted victory at the Olympics just weeks before, winning gold in the 800m demonstration event.

Louise Sauvage in action
Louise Sauvage was a real home-grown star for Australia
French swimmer Beatrice Hess dominated in the pool at Sydney, notching up six gold medals to take her all-time tally to 17.

Jason Wening, a double below-the-knee amputee swimmer from the United States, won his third consecutive gold medal in the 400m freestyle and broke his own world record in the process.

The achievement was made even more impressive by the fact Wening had not been beaten in the 400m in his category since 1991, when he first broke the world record.

But the Games was not without some controversy as nine powerlifters from eight countries were each banned for four years after failing a drugs test.

American sprinter Brian Frasure signalled a lowpoint at the end of the Games when he was stripped of his 200m silver medal after testing positive for nandrolone.

There was also embarrassment for Spain after their so-called intellectually-disabled basketball team were stripped of their golds after later being found to have no mental disability.

Overall though, the Sydney Paralympics were a huge success with over a million excited spectators filling the Olympic Park venue over the 11 days of competition.

The Games marked the first-time participation of female athletes in powerlifting, and it was a debut to remember.

An incredible seven world records tumbled within the space of two hours as Jianxin Bian of China and Fatma Omar of Egypt took the first two gold medals in the event.

Wheelchair rugby, a demonstration event at Atlanta 1996 and now a full-medal sport at Sydney 2000, also proved to be an instant crowd-puller - The USA edged out Australia 32-31 in a tight final to take the gold medal.

But it was Australia who had the last laugh, topping the medal table with 63 gold, 39 silver and 47 bronze, which was the perfect reward for organising such a successful showpiece.

Paralympic Games 2004



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