17 March 2010
RMIT graduate makes Paralympics history
Jessica Gallagher in action. Image: Australian Paralympic Committee.
A birthday bronze medal for RMIT University graduate Jessica Gallagher in the vision-impaired slalom in Vancouver has made her the first Australian woman to win a winter Paralympic medal.
The Geelong osteopath, who graduated with a Master of Osteopathy last year, turned 24 on the day her second run at Whistler Creekside clinched the historic bronze.
Australia has been represented at all nine previous Winter Paralympics since the first in Sweden in 1976 and has won 24 medals, but all by male athletes.
The medal was in the offing after Ms Gallagher's first slalom run put her and her guide, Eric Bickerton, in third position behind Sabine Gasteiger (Austria) and Viviane Forest (Canada).
The final medal placings after the second run saw the top three positions unchanged.
Ms Gallagher was born with a rare genetic eye disease, cone dystrophy, and is legally blind.
She is an all-round athlete, holding the Australian and Oceanian records for long jump and shot put, plus a national record for discus.
She was selected to compete in those three events, plus the 100m, at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, but was ruled out on a technicality, attending the event as part of the Australian medical team.
Dr Ray Myers, Discipline Head, Osteopathy, in the School of Health Sciences, said: "Jessica showed tenacity and dedication, as well as considerable ability, in completing her studies in conjunction with her gruelling training program in the latter years.
"I and the other osteopathic teaching staff are pleased see her hard work come to fruition, through her graduation and registration as an osteopath as well as her sporting successes. We are sure that there are more to come."