Well, I thought I would write a quick blog looking back over my 2015 adventure. 2015 started with the annual falls creek training camp leading into the Summer Down Under International Wheelchair Series, which saw some hard and fast racing before we turned our attention to the Australian domestic season, in which I recorded a win in the 1500m at the Sydney National Series meet.
TeamColman Juniors raced well at Vic Junior state champs before Sam and Mitch went onto Australian Age nationals in Sydney, recording multiple personal bests at their first National Championships. During the summer, I was also able to attend the annual Spina Bifida Foundation of Victoria junior camp as a proud ambassador and member of the Foundation.
During March, I was invited to compete at the international track meeting in Noumea in New Caledonia - the home of one of the greatest wheelchair athletes and great friend, Pierre. After a few days training and exploring the island and country #54 on my travels around the world we had a great track comp.
Early in May I was invited up to Manilla to coach at a Philippines national wheelchair training camp in conjunction with Steve, head of the foundation Wheelchair Express doing disability sports development in a number of countries around the world. What a wonderful few days working with such determined and talented athletes giving it their all in very hot hard conditions. While I was in town the world stopped to watch the fight that stopped the world, so no training took place during this time, but unfortunately the result didn’t go the way the locals wanted so everyone headed back to training.
May saw the Australian Wheelchair Track Team head to Switzerland for the annual racing series in Nottwil and Arbon, which saw the very best athletes in the world all turn up in fantastic shape with multiple world records falling over the six days of racing. I was lucky enough to be involved in one of these events, once again going under the T53 World Record, but unfortunately I finished third, I think this is close to the tenth time this has happened and another 10 times in which I have seen a world record broken in the same race, which gives me huge motivation to keep training hard so maybe one day I may be lucky enough to hold a world record myself. I have uploaded the race video from the World Record race to my YouTube Channel. We were blessed with the weather this year with hot weather every day of the meet after arriving into freezing weather. I have never seen so many days of racing in perfect weather in Switzerland, so fingers crossed it happens again in 2016.
June saw the international season head to the USA. During this period the Australian team was based out of the University of Illinois - about three-hours south of Chicago - which provided the best training environment with some of the world’s best athletes all training together. During this trip we raced in Minneapolis, Indianapolis on the track followed by road races in Cedartown and Atlanta. During our trip to Minneapolis I managed to get a rest day from training and racing to experience a game of baseball with a full stadium of 40,000 people - such a highlight of any trip to the US.
The Cedartown 5km road race is always a highlight we the best wheelchair races venturing to a small country town 90 minutes north east of Atlanta on the Alabama boarder. I have been going to this race since 2013 and have become great friends with the locals. Unfortunately, I am still trying to win this race for the first time and I will have to wait another year to get another attempt. Check out the GoPro race video from the view from the race on my YouTube channel.
After the Final race of the international season, the Peachtree 10km road race in Atlanta on July 4th, I headed off on a short three-week end of season holiday to the Caribbean with Matt, a great mate from Cedartown.
First stop on the holiday was Jamaica for a few days, which saw us explore the city sights of Kingston, take a tour of the Blue Mountains, including coffee farms, and explore the Bob Marley highlight spots including Trench Town and his family home. On the final night we managed to tick off a bucket list item to see a cricket match in the Caribbean. We saw Jamaica play Trinidad in a T20, which was filled with major international stars from around the world. The highlight was seeing Chris Gayle stand at the crease and smash 100 runs with countless balls flying out of the stadium.
Next stop was an 8-night adventure into Cuba (country #57), now one of my all-time favourite countries. We spent a few days exploring Old Havana and had a day at the beach before traveling around a few other towns with fellow backpackers in an adventure in vintage cars to remote places. While in Havana, we even joined in with some local kids playing a game of baseball in the street near our hostel. I was blown away by Cuba and Havana, I could have easily have stayed weeks just in Havana. We only saw a fraction of the country and with so much still to see I will be heading back for sure.
After the magic of colourful Cuba we ventured into another unknown, the Dominican Republic. We stayed in the best hostel of the trip in Old San Juan, run by a young English guy, which made the visit to country #58. We spent time exploring old town, which has buildings dating back to Columbus, before venturing to the north coast to a small seaside town and on to an island to have a break from the bustle of city life.
The last stop of this adventure was to Puerto Rico to slowly get us back to reality. We just stayed in the capital, which has such history and culture with plenty to see and do plus plenty of beaches to explore close by. This three-week break is my only holiday for the year, so it was well needed and enjoyed.
On my return I went straight into a heavy block of training in the lead up to the World Championships in October. However, due to ill health, I was forced to withdraw prior to World Champs and take a few weeks’ break.
During winter, we saw athletes work hard during some of the worst conditions possible, including evenings in Ballarat with sub-zero temperatures pushing around the lake in driving wind and rain. As darkness fell, all the athletes continued to train no matter what, as the rewards really are worth it in the long run.
Spring saw the athletics season return in Australia with the primary school events and secondary state championships along with Vic All Schools Championships. This year we saw two wheelchair athletes compete at Vic Primary School Championships, the most ever at this event, 20 years after I first competed as an athlete.
October was a quiet month after my withdrawal from the World Championships, spent trying to regain full health, but it did allow for other opportunities to develop.
The end of 2015 saw my return to training on a long slow build up to full fitness, but it is important to do the base training on the road to Rio16. I would like to welcome all the new athletes who have joined one of my training groups around the state during the year - it is fantastic to see so many people getting involved in wheelchair racing.
Along with my competing and travelling adventures in 2015 were all the other things that keep me busy away from training, from regular motivational speaking to schools and corporates, to coaching in Geelong, Ballarat and Melbourne and helping the next generation of athlete achieve their dream in sport.
I have enjoyed sharing my Dream Roll story regularly to schools and corporations around the state and also attending numerous events to help promote Paralympic sport. We have seen so much change in disability over this year alone and that will continue over the coming years.
For more on my busy life, join the Dream Roll Newsletter via my website for regular updates on all things sport and life. The updates will hit your inboxes regularly on the road to Rio as we develop opportunities on and off the track. I will be posting a YouTube video of 2015 in review, so jump on to the site check that out as well.
2016 has come around very fast with the major focus, of course, being the 2016 Rio Paralympics being held in September; but there is so much training and racing to be done before that both here in Australia and around the world. I am looking forward to the new opportunities on and of the track. Bring on Rio16!
Thank you all for your continued support and I look forward to working, talking and dreaming with you all in the new year.