Libby Kosmala, one of the World’s oldest athletes at 78 called time on her career earlier this week. The much-decorated Australian para shooter, who was born a paraplegic due to complications at birth, represented her country in 12 Paralympic Games from 1976 to 2016 and won 13 medals, 9 of them gold.
Among the distinctions to her name was being the oldest Australian athlete to turn out at the 2008 Beijing Games and was the overall oldest athlete at London 2012, where she announced her retirement. She later returned to competition and was again the oldest at Rio 2016 while competing in her favourite 10m air rifle standing, prone and mixed events. Done with a career that started in 1966, Libby now plans to watch next year’s Tokyo Games on a platform alien to her — television. “I don’t know (the feeling of watching the Games on TV), I haven’t done that in years,” she said in an interview.
An all-round athlete, Libby also competed in foil fencing, swimming, wheelchair racing, field events and archery, and even won bronze at the 1972 Heidelberg Paralympics in 3x50m medley relay 2-4 event. After her maiden gold at the 1976 Games in Toronto, Libby’s crowning glory was at the 1984 Games in Stoke Mandeville, England, winning gold in each of her four events and breaking four world records for one of the most dominant performances by an Australian in the Games history. Seoul 1988 was also special as she won three gold and a silver, while husband Stan took gold in lawn bowls.
A recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1985 for her service to air rifle shooting, Libby also received the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 and Centenary Medal the next year. Last year, she was inducted into the South Australian Sport Hall of Fame.
The reason behind her success can be understood from her mindset. “I’ve had a wonderful life and I don’t think of myself as a person with a disability,” she said.
It was with this mentality that got Libby vociferous about rights of persons with disabilities in her home Adelaide and South Australia. She was also instrumental in the introduction of parking spaces for people with disabilities.
Retirement does not mean she will be away from shooting ranges. Libby’s focus now is on mentoring the next generation of Australian shooters. “At my height, I’m in a wheelchair and they are only a little bit higher than I am, so they listen to me very carefully,” she said.