People often ask me how I got involved in athletics. I was lucky enough that my school in Geelong provided me with the pathway.
Just like any Aussie kid I had a go at everything I could from swimming to basketball, tennis and eventually athletics. I would always be the first one on the rings in gymnastics or climbing to the gym roof on the high rope. I just loved having a go and putting myself right in the middle of the action.
Oddly enough, my first memories of athletics aren’t actually winning my first race, or sitting on the start line for a race. My first memories are from my schools house athletics days where I would do every event that I could. My former teachers still remind me of this to this day.
Just like many of friends in my year I would line up for long jump, where I would push as fast as I could down the runway then brake suddenly, trying to stop and jump out of my chair and hopefully land in the sand.
The other event that I reminded about is the high jump. Again, I would push up to the bar as fast as I could, jump out of my chair in the hope of clearing the bar then land on the matts.
Unfortunately I didn’t win these events.
However this was the start of my journey, a journey that has lead me to where I am today. I think I took to athletics because it was something I could do against my friends on a level playing field. Just as everyone else went to do their after school sports training – football, cricket or whatever it may be - I went to the athletics track where I would push myself alongside my able bodied training partners, many of whom I am still great friends with today.
My first step was joining a local athletics club Chilwell, which I am still a member of today. I started competing down at Landy Field at little athletics when I was 10 years-old competing alongside every other athlete and not being treated any differently. I often think that this positive experience is why I am in the sport today and therefore a huge thanks must go to everyone who has supported me and encourage me from these early days.
After showing some promise at little athletics I joined up with a coach, Mandi Cole, who I am still with to this day. I started out with the veteran distance athletes, then the veteran sprinters before moving into the girls training group. Finally I started training with the senior boys. As I got stronger and faster I found myself doing twice as many reps as the senior boys to keep challenging myself.
The moral of the story is that it has taken many years of hard training to get to where I am today. Hours upon hours in the chair, in all sorts of weather conditions.
Honestly though, I would not have it any other way. The hard work has been worth it when you consider the friends I have made along the way and the life experiences I have had.
I often ask myself whether I would have had these experiences if I wasn’t in a wheelchair or I wasn’t an athlete. The answer is almost always no.
It doesn’t matter where you start, if you put in the effort then you’re almost guaranteed to enjoy the ride.
Till next time, keep searching the world for the dream.