For most athletes, an Olympic career might last 12 years. For Libby Kosmala, it's more like 44.

To put it in perspective, that's 12 years more than our very own Olympic veteran, Mark Todd.

Yet, as hard as it is to believe, at 74 years of age, Kosmala is heading to her 12th Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next week.

She's become the Michael Jordan of the Paralympic world, announcing her retirement at London 2012, only to come back in 2016.


Her career goes all the way back to 1972, where she starred in her first Paralympics in Heidelberg. She won a bronze medal in swimming in the Women's 3x50 m Medley Relay 2-4 event.

She was supposed to compete at the 1968 Games in Tel Aviv, however, an organiser forget to pick her for the team, so she travelled as a secretary instead.

Since then, her athleticism has taken her to Toronto, Arnhem, New York, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Beijing, and London, en route to nine golds, three silvers, and one bronze.

She's nearly been apart of every Paralympic Games, since its inception in 1960.

While her career started in the pool, she quickly moved to the shooting range in 1976 and found her niche, her nine golds all coming from shooting events. Despite her success with a rifle, she's expanded her horizons competing in foil fencing, wheelchair racing, field events, and archery.

In 2003, she had both her everyday and sporting wheelchairs stolen while on an Emirates flight from Dubai to Germany.

She had to borrow wheelchairs while in Germany, and when she arrived home with no wheelchair to return to, she said that it was the first time in her life that she really felt "disabled".

The airline company gave her $2000 dollars towards the cost of replacement wheelchairs, which were worth $5000 dollars each.


Aside from her illustrious career, she's also been a strong advocate for paraplegic rights.

She played a part in the introduction of disabled parking permits in South Australia, after accumulating and refusing to pay many parking fines for parking too long in a fifteen-minute parking area.

She won a court case against the City of Adelaide on the issue, but was asked to pay her court costs, which were covered by an anonymous donor.

In 2013, Kosmala became the inaugural patron of Technical Aid to the Disabled South Australia (TADSA), a charity that aims to help people with disabilities overcome problems by designing and building or modifying devices where no other solution is readily available.

When Kosmala was born, she was initially classified as having spina bifida, but at the age of 50, she discovered that her paraplegia was due to birth-related complications.

She is paralysed from the waist down, and her spine is of normal thickness down to the middle of her back, thins out to the size of a pencil, then comes out normally again.