Wheelchair racer Madison de Rozario and para-snowboarder Ben Tudhope named Paralympians of the Year

Madison de Rozario and Ben Tudhope both started their Paralympic careers as children, carrying big expectations, and even bigger dreams.

They’ve transformed from youngsters with potential into Paralympic medalists, World Champions, respected role models – and now the 2020 and 2022 Paralympians of the Year.

Wheelchair racer de Rozario was recognized for her two gold medals (T54 marathon and T53 800m) and her bronze medal (T54 1500m) at last year’s delayed Tokyo Olympic Games.

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“When you think about what the award actually means, it’s outside of just performance,” de Rozario told ABC Sport.

“And I think of the individuals that make up this Paralympic team. It is the absolute highest privilege.”

Tudhope won the 2022 Award for his bronze-medal-winning performance at this year’s Beijing Winter Paralympics in the snowboard cross SB-LL2.

“To bring a medal home, it just shows the hard work and dedication,” he told ABC Sport.

“I can’t wait to keep on going now, and I’m only hungry for more.”

De Rozario conquers all in Tokyo

Madison de Rozario pipped Switzerland’s Manuela Schaer to win the women’s T54 marathon in Tokyo. (Getty Images: Eugene Hoshiko)

De Rozario made her Paralympic debut as a 14-year-old in Beijing 2008, and by the time Tokyo 2020 finally came around in 2021, she was ready to peak.

She won her first Paralympic gold medal in the 800m, but the marathon was the ultimate prize where produced a breathtaking finish to become the first Australian woman to win over the distance.

“The last moments of a race, you almost hand the reins over to your body, you’re like, ‘You know what you’re doing’,” she said.

“And, so, when you cross that line, it’s a bit of a bizarre out-of-body experience.

Paralympic gold medalist smiling with the Australia flag after winning gold in the women's marathon
Madison de Rozario came away from Tokyo with two gold medals, and a bronze.(Getty Images: Alex Davidson)

“So this is unreal. I look at this team and I genuinely love them so much. This is a family to me and I’ve grown up in this world.”

De Rozario is one of the most well-known athletes in the Australian Paralympic team, and is embracing her status as a role model.

Tudhope’s triumph in Beijing

An Australian male Paralympic athlete holds his national flag behind him at the Beijing Games.
Ben Tudhope was ecstatic to claim bronze in Beijing, Australia’s only medal of the Winter Games.(Getty Images: Steph Chambers)

It was the bronze medal that felt every bit like gold for Tudhope in Beijing.

Like de Rozario, he started his Paralympic journey as a 14-year-old, at the 2014 Sochi Games, where he even earned the honor of carrying the Australian flag at the closing ceremony after an incredible top-10 finish.

He went to Beijing as the co-captain of the Australian team, still only 22-years-old, and the brightest medal prospect.

He trailed the four-man field for most of the snowboard cross big final, but surged home at the finish to pinch the bronze.

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One of the enduring images of the Games came when he embraced Finland’s gold medalist Matti Suur-Hamari and Canada’s Alex Massie.

The trio is known as “team unicorn”, and have a special bond as the only snowboarders from their respective countries.

“And I’m so glad I had those boys with me because I truly could not get this done and go to Beijing without the support from my team,” Tudhope said.

Three snowboarders are hugging, lying on top of each other.
Ben Tudhope celebrated his bronze medal with his fellow ‘Team Unicorn’ athletes.(Getty Images: Steph Chambers)

“We went through some really hard times together with one of our coaches passing away and that was a very sad, grueling moment.

“But we knew from his passing, we had a job to keep on going because he will be the first person, Mikko [Wendelin]to tell us not to stop.

Di Toro and Fearnley among other recipients

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