There was more sad news this morning when news came through that Frank Pont had passed away, after a battle with ill health.
When it comes to athletes with a disability in Australia Frank Ponta was without doubt one of the true pioneers and one of the greatest contributors to disability sport in Australia and especially Western Australia.
Frank is sadly not in the WA Hall of Sporting Champions, although more than worthy of the accolade; and hopefully those who make the decision may even consider inducting him posthumously. As a result many sports fans will not have heard of him.
His sporting career spanned five Paralympic Games, where he won one gold, two silver and one bronze Paralympic medals. He was a member of the very first Australian Paralympic Team, which competed at the 1960 Rome Paralympic Games.
He was a remarkable athlete and is regarded by many as one of Australia’s greatest Paralympians. He represented Australia in wheelchair basketball, swimming, athletics and fencing, and is recognised as one of Australia’s greatest Australian wheelchair basketballers.
It was Frank Ponta who was the inspiration to many of the Perth Wheelcats, the team that has won the Wheelchair Basketball National Championship five years in a row. Four of the team are in the starting five for the Australian Rollers, and all of them will acknowledge the part that Frank Ponta played in them scaling the heights that they have.
He helped grow the Paralympic movement in Australia. He also had an incredible influence on the coaching and administration of wheelchair sports his entire adult life. He coached countless athletes from junior level through to elite Paralympic champions, including Paralympic gold medallists Louise Sauvage and Priya Cooper.
I was fortunate to have met Frank Ponta, although sadly towards the end of his life, and after he had suffered a stroke in 2009. Just being in the same room you could feel the reverence the other athletes had for him. I was fortunate to catch some of his wit, and that naughty glint in his eye for which he was so famous. Most of all I was lucky to witness a man humble in his own achievements and much loved by all those around him, whose lives he had touched. He gave many people a very special gift, belief in themselves, and his passing will leave a large void.