Former CEO Ray Epstein is honoured by the decision at Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association’s recent Annual General Meeting to award him life membership for his 26 dedicated years of service.
“I’m delighted and humbled to be awarded honorary life membership. The Association has been such an important part of my life for more than 40 years, and I’m looking forward to staying involved with members and staff into the future,” he said.
“It has been an absolute honour and privilege to have been given the opportunity to be part of such a wonderful organisation, work with so many fantastic people and be inspired constantly by the achievements of the athletes and other members of the Association.
“There have been some wonderful moments for me to reflect on in my career with the Association, and earlier as an athlete and coach, and I feel truly blessed to have been involved so long in an organisation that genuinely makes a difference to the lives of people with a disability in so many ways.”
The five-time Paralympic athlete and coach became involved in the Association in 1977 as a young athlete and served on the Association’s Board prior to his appointment as Finance and Administration Manager in 1990. He was appointed as CEO in 1998. On 16 December 2016, Ray retired from the Association after 26 years of employment, 18 of those as Association CEO. However, Ray’s contribution to the Association went far beyond these roles.
Ray made a unique and lasting contribution to the Association and the development of para-sport in Queensland not only as a sports administrator but as an elite athlete and coach.
Ray achieved considerable international success in powerlifting from 1988-1995, most notably competing in the 1988 and 1992 Paralympics, and achieving world records in 1993 and 1994. After retiring as an athlete in 1995, Ray focused on volunteering roles within his sport.
He was accredited as an IPC (International Paralympic Committee) Powerlifting International Category 2 Referee in 1997 and officiated at the 1998 IPC Powerlifting World Championships in Dubai. This accreditation was upgraded to International Category 1 in Dubai in 1998.
He began coaching soon after his retirement as an athlete and was appointed Assistant National Coach (1999) and National Head Coach (2003). He coached Australian lifters to three silver medals at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Paralympics and 16 medals at world championships and international events including the Commonwealth Games, up until his retirement from coaching in 2013.
Throughout his coaching career, Ray was the driving force in the establishment and development of a training hub for powerlifters and fellow coaches at the Association’s Brisbane gym. These efforts were recognised by the Association when Ray was awarded ‘Coach of the Year’ in 1998, 2004 and 2006.
Ray was appointed to the QAS Board in 2008 (and continues in this role today), assisting in the development of elite sport in Queensland. He played a key role in establishing Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association’s High-Performance Program in partnership with the QAS and Basketball Queensland.
Ray’s leadership and contribution to sport has been recognised through numerous awards and honours, most notably, an OAM for services to weightlifting and people with disabilities in 1994. He was also recognised at the 2014 Qld Disability Awards as the Most Inspiring Individual Award Winner, and in 2016 with a Service to Sport Award at the Queensland Sport Awards.
Honorary life membership is granted once a year by the Board to recognise an Association member who has made a significant and lasting contribution to the organisation and its members.