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Australia eyes 1,000th Paralympic medal in Beijing
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The largest ever Australian Paralympic team of 170 athletes - 96 men and 74 women - aims to collect the 1,000th medal for its all-time tally in Beijing.

The team left Sydney for Beijing on Monday to attend the 13th Paralympic Games starting on Saturday.

The Australian Paralympic Committee is confident it can take 92 medals it needs to make Australia's tally to 1,000 over the past 48 years.

"Its a hard task, but we're in the running for that and we could win the 1,000th medal in these Games," committee CEO Darren Peters said. "It's pretty exciting."

The athletes will have a few days to get used to the conditions in Beijing before the 13th Paralympic Games, which run from September 6 to 17.

At the Paralympics in Athens in 2004, Australia won 100 medals and came fifth overall with 26 gold,38 silver and 36 bronze.

China topped the medal tally with 63 gold and 141 medals overall and is expected to considerably exceed their 2004 tally at their home Paralympics.

According to the report by Australian Associated Press, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's wife Therese Rein, an honorary member of the Paralympic team, was at the Sydney airport to wish them luck.

"The team is brilliant and the atmosphere and support between athletes is amazing," she said, adding they've all trained really hard and "I'm sure they're going to do brilliantly."

Australian Paralympic Committee chairman Greg Hartung said the team was the best away team Australia had ever assembled.

"They are big on talent and big on toughness and we will expect our athletes to perform at peak value for Australia," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency September 2, 2008)

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