Aussie athlete not blind enough

2008-09-05 08:53

Beijing - An Australian athlete in Beijing for the Paralympics has been told she cannot compete because she is not blind enough, a team spokesperson said on Friday.

Jessica Gallagher, 22, had been due to contest five events - the discus, long jump, shot put and the 100m and 200m sprints before her hopes were dashed after she failed a classification test in Beijing.

Although her right eye met the criteria, her left eye was found to be too good.

A spokesperson for the Australian team in Beijing said that Gallagher was aware before she travelled to China that she was borderline and could fail the classification test.

"She had been fully briefed by the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) on her chances and what she had to go through," he said.

"It hasn't come as a shock to her," he said, adding that within 12 months it was likely that the level of deterioration in her left eye would mean she would be eligible to compete.

Gallagher, who was born with a rare degenerative disease affecting her sight, is also in training for the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver.

The International Paralympic Committee has allowed Gallagher to stay after the Australian team said her osteopathy skills would be useful, according to the spokesperson.

Australia are bidding for their 1 000th medal at the Paralympics.

The prospect of the 92 medals needed is not unrealistic given that Australia won 100 - 26 gold, 38 silver and 36 bronze - at the 2004 Games in Athens.

Australia's team of about 170 athletes is among the largest the country has ever sent and APC chairperson Greg Hartung said it was the best the nation had ever assembled.

The 13th Paralympic Games, to include more than 4 000 athletes, will take place from September 6 to 17.

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