Calendar shows the naked truth about disabled athletes

A blonde temptress wearing nothing but body paint, a tattooed naked man floating languidly in a swimming pool... these are not traditional images of people with disabilities.

A blonde temptress wearing nothing but body paint, a tattooed naked man floating languidly in a swimming pool... these are not traditional images of people with disabilities.

But the stereotyped images were precisely what Australia's Paralympic athletes overturned when they modelled for an official calendar in a variety of sultry poses.

The 11th Paralympic Games start in Sydney on 18 October, a fortnight after the end of the Olympics. A total of 18 sports, including judo, shooting, track cycling and wheelchair basketball, will be contested by 4,000 athletes. "Para" is short for "Parallel" (to the Olympics), not "paraplegic".

The calendar, launched at a fundraising dinner in Sydney last night, features 18 Australian athletes. Among them is Branka Pupovac, a wheelchair tennis player photographed topless but adorned with swirls of brown and gold body paint.

She is thrilled by it. "I'm not used to seeing myself made up, and normally the only time I'm topless is at home in the shower." Ms Pupovac said people were usually distracted by athletes' disabilities; the calendar had given them the opportunity to show their personalities. "It's a good chance to show another side," she said.

Paralympic swimmer, Karni Liddell is shown naked but for sunglasses and a polka-dot body-painted bikini, and Hamish MacDonald, a shotputter, shaved his chest and was photographed naked from the waist up.

Charmaine Dalli, an equestrian competitor, who posed on a carousel with feathers in her hair, said: "It's an image the public may not have had before of disabled athletes.

"They're used to looking at the disability, but in the calendar they see the glamorous side first."

Emma Hack, who did the body painting, said: "Their disabilities made it more challenging because I'm used to doing full bodies, and we tried to keep away from making them look disabled. We wanted them to be fantasy images."

In 1966, the British Paralympic team in Atlanta won 122 medals, including 39 gold ones.

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