Below is the full video transcript…
What part has sport played in your life?
Sport for me was a big part of my life growing up and probably the one thing that it taught me was that I was actually… it was the one thing where I was actually no different to an able-bodied person. I can get out there and do sport and take part in those things that are such Australian things to take part in, just like everyone else, and that’s probably the most exciting part of sport for me growing up as a kid.
What sports did you try?
I did wheelchair athletics. Also when I was growing up I did a little bit of wheelchair tennis, a little bit of wheelchair basketball and a little bit of archery.
Which sport did you excel at and why?
It turns out I wasn’t very good at hitting a ball, the tennis part. So I could get to the ball really fast but I couldn’t actually hit it once I got there. And then getting the ball in the hoop during the basketball part, again, really fast, couldn’t get it in the hoop, so I ended up with athletics where I only had to do the going fast part.
What is the value of Sporting Wheelies to the community?
It’s so great that organisations like Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association are around to be able to assist people with a disability to get involved in sports that they might not necessarily know that they’re able to be involved in, because it really is one of those things where that can define you as a person and it really is some of the major memories of my life, that I’ve had, have been through sport and some of the great friendships too.
How did your relationship with Sporting Wheelies begin?
For me, my Sporting Wheelies journey started when I attended what used to be called SPOKES. SPOKES was a Saturday afternoon sports program where you came as young kids and you did a different sport every week. So one week you might do ten-pin bowling, one week you might do athletics and you try all the different athletics sports, one week you might do tennis, the next week you might do lawn bowls… it could have been absolutely everything. So that was a fantastic opportunity to get involved in a number of different sports and a lot of the same guys that I started off on that program with are still friends now, so there’s obviously some social parts to it as well.
What are the benefits of being a member of Sporting Wheelies?
Sporting Wheelies for me gave you a community to join. Often people with a disability are excluded, unfortunately, from a number of different events and a number of aspects of life. It’s a sad fact and we all obviously hope it improves, but organisations like Sporting Wheelies really give you that group community feel of “these people are just getting out there and getting involved in sport exactly the same as I’m trying to do. We’re all dealing with things slightly differently, we’ve all got slightly different impairments we’re dealing with,” but the one thing that bands you together is that love of sport and that love of just getting out there and giving it a go.
Your greatest sporting moment?
I was lucky enough to win in Sydney (2000 Paralympic Games), so you can line up just about whatever you want next to that and I don’t think you’re going to find too many athletes who are going to disagree that winning in front of your home crowd is one of the biggest things that you can ever go through.
After your own experiences, what advice would you offer others?
It’s just getting out there and giving it a go, it’s the most important thing for any person with a disability or any person or any young kid getting involved in sport full stop. Sport is one of those things that can be great leveller, and you never know until you just get out there and give it a crack. Don’t just give up at the first sport. If you try one and you’re either not enjoying it, or you’re just not that good there’s plenty more sports just around the corner. So just keep trying and keep going through the sports and annoying mum and dad to keep you getting put into the next one and there is no doubt that you’ll eventually find that sport that you really enjoy.
Is there any other sport you would like to try?
The one sport that I do often get asked to participate in is, for a long time now… the Australian Paralympic Committee has always tried to get a sled hockey team in the Winter Olympics. And for some reason it seems to be the younger athletics guys who used to train on the road and potentially do some dangerous things training on the road that they think are stupid enough to actually give this sled hockey thing a go. If I was a few years younger then yeah, that would be the one sport I wouldn’t have minded giving a bit of a crack after I’d retired.
Would you regard yourself as a risk taker or are you more conservative?
I’m a risk taker but only because I think I know what I’m doing. My wife probably disagrees but I think I know what I’m doing.
What do you see as Sporting Wheelies role in the future?
With sports becoming more and more mainstream it’s a fantastic opportunity for Sporting Wheelies to continue to build that grass roots input into, getting young people with a disability into sport, providing that expert knowledge to those sporting organisations that are doing better and better work including people with a disability. People with a disability will always have those slightly different ways that they need to accomplish their inclusion in sport, and organisations like Sporting Wheelies will always have that expertise. So that knowledge base, is where I really see Sporting Wheelies as being a driving factor still.