Stars of London struggling to get sponsorship

Jacqueline Freney has been crowned Australia's Paralympian of the Year after winning eight gold medals at the London Games. But two months after the flame was extinguished, the swimming champion has yet to attract any sponsors.

The Australian Paralympians received an official welcome home ceremony at the Sydney Opera House on Friday, when speeches praised the achievements of the team that finished fifth on the medal tally table.

When they returned from London, many of the better known team members expressed optimism that the upbeat vibe and unprecedented media coverage of the Games would translate into increased sponsorship for them.

Freney, who won more golds than any other athlete, said she now had far more media and speaking engagements but they had not translated into financial rewards.

"I've had a few opportunities to get my name out there but still no sponsors on the cards. But I don't do it for the sponsorship – I do it for the passion of my sport," said Freney, who has cerebral palsy diplegia.

"I've been trying [to attract sponsors]. I've been making as many appearances as I can but I think it's a lot harder to get sponsorship these days than people make out. You have to put yourself out there and wish for the best.

"I hope somebody gets on board and sponsors me. I think I'd be a great asset to the company."

Sprinter Evan O'Hanlon, who was the flag bearer in the closing ceremony, said he had yet to find new sponsors but was hopeful that deals could be secured soon.

"There are still a couple of things that are in the pipeline and we're working on but we'll see what happens," said O'Hanlon who won gold in the 100 metres and 200 metres. "I'm still hopeful. I am going to go on to Rio so I think I'm a pretty good deal for a company.

"There's definitely an increased interest media-wise – I'm not sure business-wise yet.

"But London is a turning point in our history. We got massive amounts of media and that's only going to push everyone's results through the roof, because we're going to become more professional and that is just going to eventually mean that we are professional athletes and we're going to be paid to do what we do, the same as abled-bodied athletes. It's all positive."

Matt Cowdrey, who became Australia's most successful Paralympian in London, said he had noticed a change in the attitude of corporate Australia since the London Games and was optimistic about opportunities for athletes.

"Given the economic climate it's pretty hard to push that sort of thing . . . [but] I'm definitely not getting negative about things at the moment. I think there may be a few things coming up for a lot of our athletes in the next couple of weeks.

"I think corporate-wise they definitely understand we are elite athletes now and that perception with the Australian public has changed now as well so it's more of a culture shift than it is anything else and I think it is well and truly on its way and we've just got to keep doing what we're doing and be as professional as we can and things will eventuate."

The chief executive of the Australian Paralympic Committee, Jason Hellwig, who was the team's chef de mission in London, said obtaining "corporate support for Paralympic athletes is tough. It's improving but very few of them will be able to gain meaningful corporate support such as they can call themselves a fully professional athlete.

"I would be surprised if Jacqui and Matt don't get opportunities . . . I think they will and they'll be well earned and well deserved. But athletes have to learn as well that it's not going to land on their door," Hellwig said.

"They have to manage themselves well, they have to be true to their values and keep doing the things that made them attractive to people and those opportunities will hopefully come."

This story Stars of London struggling to get sponsorship first appeared on WA Today.