“I don’t want people to look at my limitations as I walk past them on my morning walk,” Katrina Porter says.
“I want people to see my athleticism and be seen doing what they are doing… just differently.”
Katrina Porter has never let the odds stop her from pursuing her dreams.
After a childhood spent in hospitals full of limitations, she learnt how to break her own boundaries and earn the world’s respect and admiration.
The swimmer is an ambassador of the Count Me In Disability Services Commission Project in WA, sharing her thoughts on enhancing accessibility and inclusion possibilities for people with a disability, not only in sport but also in all aspects of life.
“It’s not about coming first, second or third, whether it’s about photography, sport or life in general,” she says.
“It’s about realising the potential in everyone.
She encourages people to focus on their abilities in order to break the limits of their disabilities.
“Don’t limit yourself by what you’ve been gifted, find your own ability within your disability,” she says.
“I love my crutches, they mean the world to me- literally!”
Katrina’s future plans include participating in open swims in Rottnest and the Kimberley, as well as taking on the challenge to participate in the Rottnest swim by herself in years to come.
In the past seven editions of Rotnest she has participated either as part of a team or a duo, but she hopes to train and compete as a solo prior to 2020.
“If they can, so can I,” she says.
Katrina Porter’s is clearly a message of strength, fight and commitment.
No boundary is too big.
“This was my chance to begin to form the real Katrina, and show that I was more than just Katrina the swimmer,” Katrina Porter says.
After her success in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics taking a gold medal home and establishing a new world record, Katrina thought she had achieved everything in life.
“I wondered what’s next,” the athlete says.
As the 2012 London Paralympics approached, Katrina was nominated by her fellow Australian Paralympic swimming team mates to become the female team captain, offering her the opportunity to mentor a new generation of athletes.
“A gold medal didn’t define me, this was my chance,” Katrina says.
“It was the chance to build the belief others had of me as more than a swimmer.”
Prior to the London 2012 Paralympics, she continued to train for the Paralympics splitting her time between training in Rome & Perth.
“Rome was tough,” the swimmer says.
At the beginning, she wasn’t allowed to train with the able-bodied swimmers, which slowly took its toll on her.
“Acceptance is everything.”
She didn’t give up, and managed to convince the team to give her a chance.
“They replied (in Italian) ‘keep up with the squad or you are out’,” Katrina says.
She kept up, and trained with the squad for the next 10 months.
It was the hardest season of her life.
Due to an injury before the Paralympics she didn’t make it to the podium in London. But she knew she had tried her best.
“I achieved something more, respect of others out of the water,” she says.
After the London games, Katrina gave up pool swimming to take up a new challenge: open water swimming.
Since 2013 she has competed as a part of several teams in marathons, iron mans and long distance swims such as the 19.2 km Rottnest Island Channel swim.
She says she has found a way to relax and enjoy swimming again without experiencing so much pressure, since swimming in open waters heavily relies on external factors such as weather conditions.
“You can do all the training you want but if the conditions aren’t right, it will throw you off,” she says.
She will be participating in her seventh Rottnest swim this year.
“I’m very excited, it’s my favourite day in the year,” she says.
“I just love the feeling of community.
“It is hard but rewarding, I look forward to it.”
To find out more about Katrina Porter’s future plans and ambitions read next week’s post.
“I learnt that nothing comes easy,” Katrina Porter says.
After falling in love with the water while undertaking hydrotherapy, Katrina started swimming with the Superfins, a swimming club for people with disabilities, when she was ten.
“I enjoyed the water, but at that stage I wasn’t focussed on competing or taking part in events,” she says.
But her life changed when one of her coaches realised her potential.
“I began to train with able-bodied athletes, and from day one was treated as an equal,” Katrina says.
“Same hard work, same hours.”
Her hard work came to fruition in 2004, when she was selected for the Athens Paralympics.
“I wasn’t expecting to make it, I was taken to the trials to see what it was like.”
She didn’t take any medals home, but used the experience to learn about hard work and commitment.
“I made mistakes and held myself accountable for the investment of the support team that got me to Athens,” she says.
“But at the age of 15 it was the best life lesson I learnt, nothing comes easy.”
She went back to training, this time with Beijing 2008 in mind.
And after four years of endless training, she took a gold medal home in 100 metres Backstroke S7.
“The pain doesn’t last forever, but memories last a lifetime,” she laughs.
After receiving a gold medal and an Order of Australia Medal, Katrina thought she had achieved everything in life, but she still had many more to come.
To find out more about Katrina Porter’s challenges read next week’s post.
Katrina Porter’s childhood was far from normal. Instead of going out with her friends and having sleepovers, she spent her early years in and out of hospital, going through experimental surgeries and undertaking painful hours of physio and rehabilitation.
From a very young age she was diagnosed with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, a condition that causes congenital joint contractures in different parts of the body.
In Katrina’s case, it caused joint stiffness and muscle weakness from the waist down, leaving her legs extremely rigid.
“I was like a broken barbie doll at birth,” Katrina recalls.
She underwent 13 surgeries in an attempt to make her life easier until her doctors told her parents that they ‘couldn’t fix what wasn’t broken’.
(Deleted However) For Katrina and her family putting an end to painful procedures meant they were (deleted finally) able to come to terms with Katrina’s reality.
“The biggest relief for me and especially my parents was to finally live a normal life,” she says.
She then started undergoing hydrotherapy, to assist her in strengthening her legs.
In the pool, she instantly fell in love with the water, a love that would take her around the world competing as a Paralympic swimmer and that would earn her an Order of Australia Medal in 2009.
To learn more about Katrina Porter’s story stay tuned for next week’s post.
Despite his rapid success in the wheelchair rugby world, competing in the nationals only a year and a half after taking up the sport, Jake Howe’s hunger for success is far from being over.
The rugby player is currently training 6 days a week, at the gym three and hitting the court three times a week. With the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics in mind there’s nothing short of a long-term goal.
Playing a full contact sport like rugby in a wheelchair isn’t always easy, with the players tripping over their $10,000 specially designed wheelchairs.
But as Jake puts it “it just adds to the fun of it and always leaves with a good laugh”.
Hard work has only just begun for Jake, as the selection camp for the Australian Paralympics team approaches.
“To play for Australia, to be selected from the selection camp next month will be a great test” the 25-year-old says.
But he is ready to face it.
Basic things people were taking for granted like walking or holding objects were things Jake Howe had to come to terms with after his accident.
He had to learn how to move around on a wheelchair and how to carry on with daily duties with limited mobility in his arms.
His drive to be independent and not become a burden to his family and friends encouraged Jake to push his limits and become the best version of himself.
But ultimately it was his son, Lucas, who encouraged him to overcome every challenge and not give up on life, from pushing through three excruciating months of rehabilitation to see his birth, to staying fit and aiming for better mobility in his arms.
But life isn’t always as easy as Jake makes it sound.
The accident also took away from him hobbies and passions he was taking for granted, such as playing the guitar, using tools, and playing a good game of squash.
Even his son Lucas plays games on him, like holding the car keys on one hand while standing in their home’s sunken lounge room, which Jake can’t easily access on a wheelchair.
But the 25-year-old professional rugby player says limits only exist in the mind.
“You lose friends who you thought were close, and good health is hard to keep up with outside of a routine, but with a positive mindset and a loving and supportive family and son I can chase anything,” he says.
To read more about Jake Howe’s future plans and ambitions stay tuned for next week’s post.
Jake Howe was an avid sporty young man growing up, he loved to watch a good game of AFL on TV and squash on the weekend in his late teens.
It wasn’t until the accident that left him quadriplegic, that Jake found a renewed passion for sport.
He got in touch with Wheelchair Sports WA through rehabilitation and found in wheelchair rugby a perfect match.
It was close enough to Australian football and it was one of the few games available to quadriplegics.
“It was just a matter of getting out there and giving it a go,” Jake says.
He started training with a team and soon he was completely hooked.
“It’s hard going on your arms and shoulders, building strength each day, improves your cardio and since beginning rugby these added strengths have drastically improved my day to day living,” he says.
But wheelchair rugby was not only useful to stay fit and building strength, it also provided him with a prefect network to meet new people and the opportunity to set new goals in life.
“It’s given me a future goal, to play for Australia, to be selected for the selection camp next month will be a great test.”
However, Jake has already proven himself to be a gifted player.
After only a year and a half of playing wheelchair rugby, he was selected to be part of the team competing in the 2014 nationals.
“If I was an able-bodied person I would be competing against hundreds and thousands of people to play at a national level of AFL, but as a quadriplegic it’s a shorter list,” he says.
“And the best thing about a full contact sport and being a quadriplegic is that I can’t feel anything, except for the burning arms and shoulders from the wheeling around.”
To find out more about Jake Howe’s life and those who have given him the strength to overcome life’s setbacks read next week’s part of his story.
“Everything changes, but you are only as limited as you put your mind to,” 25-year-old Jake Howe says.
When he was 20 years old, Jake was a normal guy. He enjoyed playing his guitar, beating some friends in a squash game every now and again and watching Australian football on TV.
As a qualified carpenter, he was in the early stages of building his first home and he was expecting his first son.
His life had just begun, but all of a sudden, his fate flipped upside down.
He was having fun at a party with some friends when one of them picked him up in jest and ‘tombstone piledrive’ him into the ground.
Jake landed on his head, breaking his C5-6 vertebrae and becoming instantly a quadriplegic.
With the birth of his son, Lucas, only a few months away, Jake was determined to get through rehabilitation as quickly as possible so he could see his son arrive into the world.
He started rehabilitation and after just 4 months of gruelling pain, he managed to leave the centre to see the birth of Lucas.
“I just knew I had to get myself through rehab as soon as possible so I could be there for the birth of my son,” Jake says.
But Jake’s fight for independence wouldn’t end there.
“I would not allow doctors to tell me I had to use an electric wheelchair,” he says.
“Looking over at the patient beside me in hospital, with no use of his arms at all, got me thinking there is always someone else out there doing it worse.
“I could still lift my arms, despite not being able to grip much, and here, someone beside me could only stare at his food in a lost gaze.”
Jake started talking to other quadriplegics about what they could and couldn’t do, and he discovered full capabilities of his arms.
“Rather than focusing on the things I could not do I was shown that the ligaments in the hands were like elastic bands,” he says.
“As I moved my arms up and down, the hands began to open and close enough to complete minor tasks.”
This allowed Jake to push his wheelchair forward himself, as well as completing smaller daily life tasks.
But Jake’s aspirations were bigger than just getting by.
Only four months after his accident, he got in touch with Wheelchair Sports WA, where he found a new purpose in life.
To find out more about Jake Howe’s story stay tuned. The next part of his story will be published next week.
“Pushing through the pain when your body says no is when you achieve the mental toughness,” Natalie says.
“I have learned to realise that physical pain passes when training.”
Despite her commitment to hard work and improvement, Natalie says she still has a lot to learn in order to reach her life goals.
“I believe that I am not the ideal athlete.”
“There are areas that I need to improve on, but the fact that I keep on driving and striving to improve myself, physically and mentally, is what I hope to show others.”
She has started her physical and mental training for both the London 2017 Athletics World Championships, and the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, hoping to overcome her insecurities.
Natalie’s motto is the words of Olympic pole-vaulter medallist Reverend Bob Richards who said ‘every day ordinary people do extraordinary things’.
She hopes to encourage ordinary people like her to perfect themselves through determination, commitment and hard work in order to do extraordinary things.
“Throughout my teenage life and adulthood I found myself alone as an amputee, I never knew much of what was available or who was out there,” the athlete says.
“I just accepted it as a part of who I am and didn’t think too much into anything different.
“I would like people to relate to my upbringing to see the possibilities that exist out there.
“Anything is possible.”
“It takes failure to make a success,” Natalie says, determined to succeed.
“Nothing comes easy”.
“It’s taken a lot for me to take it all in this year, but I won’t let it keep me down.”
Natalie has taken the off-season as a chance to rest and reset.
She has started mental coaching sessions to keep the hype at bay during important sporting events, and to learn how to believe in herself.
Despite her initial frustration after missing out on Rio, she has set her heart and soul on the London 2017 Athletics World Championships and the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
This time she won’t let pressure get to her.
“I’m starting from square one, but with experience,” she says.
“I find motivation through the people I surround myself with, and the need to improve myself every day.”
There’s no turning back.
Natalie says sport has been a turning point in her life, and in her mental and physical wellbeing.
“Before I felt isolated and self-conscious with my disability.”
“Sport has changed my life, it has made me more independent, and now I feel I’m in control of my own destiny from my own hard work.”
The athlete says she would like to encourage other people with disabilities to give it a go.
“I feel the need to approach them and ask if they’ve found a sport, to share the same experience I’m feeling because of what it’s doing for me,” she says.
“Possibilities are out there, new goals can be made.”
To find out more about Natalie’s story, stay tuned for next week’s post.
“Because I don’t come from a very sporty background, I felt very introverted,” Natalie says.
“Sport has changed my life, I now feel I have direction.
“New goals can be made in life.”
Natalie’s start in sport wasn’t easy.
She unsuccessfully tried sprints and jumps, until she gave discuss throwing a go.
In her first attempt, an inexperienced Natalie Horobin managed to throw a discuss 15 metres.
She hasn’t the typical body shape of an athlete, but her height and the strength in her shoulders played to her advantage.
Para-athlete and Paralympian Brad Scott, who got her involved after noticing her natural talent, encouraged Natalie to go back after the talent search day and start a new training regime.
With that in mind, and the support of coach Allana Wignall and the other athletes, Natalie soon found her athletics family. It was coach Allana who flipped her training routine upside down to start building up her technique with the Rio 2016 Paralympics in mind.
“Having Rio as my goal gave me my first life purpose.”
“Training for such a big event as the Paralympics was a great change in my life.
“It started to help me physically and especially mentally.”
However, pressure and hype took its toll, as Natalie’s throw at the paralympic qualifiers fell 3 metres short of her average distance in practice.
She didn’t make the Rio Paralympics team.
“My inside was stewing away as a failure.”
“It is a target that I could easily reach in training, but I could not deliver at major meets.
“This was very frustrating and disappointing.”
However, she isn’t giving up.
“I’ve gone from nothing with a prosthetic leg, to number 13 in the world.”
“It’s all in the mind”.
To find out more about Natalie’s future plans and ambitions, read the third part of her story next week.
“I like to surprise people about what I can do; to show them anything is possible and it’s all in the mind,” Natalie Horobin says.
Natalie’s childhood was far from being easy.
From a very young age her life wasn’t like the other kids’. She couldn’t run like they did, and she lived in constant pain due to a rare disease from birth called “Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome”.
Besides discomfort and swelling, her health condition caused one of her feet to grow bigger than the other.
She was forced to wear shoes of different sizes, and was constantly teased by her classmates about it.
Life at home wasn’t much easier, growing up in an unsettled household that found it hard to cope with her condition.
However, Natalie’s life was about to take a sharp turn that would change her forever.
At the age of ten the swelling and discomfort became too much to bear for a young girl, and her doctors decided to amputate her lower right leg.
“Suddenly there was no more pain, only a missing limb,” Natalie says.
“It was such a sudden change.”
However, bullying at school didn’t stop.
“20 years ago disability wasn’t recognised the way it is now, people found it difficult to adapt to someone being different,” she says.
It wasn’t until she was a teenager that it became ‘cool’ to have a prosthetic leg, and her life-long bullies became loyal supporters.
By the time she left school, Natalie had learned to live a normal life with her disability.
She bought an average house, got married and found a job, but had no real life ambitions.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2012, when Natalie was watching the London Paralympics, that she found a new interest.
She wasn’t a young fit 20-year-old and she had never been a sporty type of person, but the idea of committing to a sports discipline started to sound appealing.
She signed up to the Australian Paralympic Committee straight away.
She tried a whole bunch of different sports in 2013, until she found her natural talent and a new sense of direction.
“There’s more to life than the daily grind, even with a disability,” she says.
“Just get out there and seek it.”
To find out more about Natalie’s story stay tuned, the second part of her story will be available next week.
“I rarely have days when I’m angry,” Georgia says.
“Obviously, there are little things like when people park too close to my car and I can’t get in.
“But I find myself pretty easy going.”
The 22-year-old basketball player says she has found unconditional support in her family, which has given her the strength to chase her dreams and ambitions.
“My mum is my biggest support and believes in anything I do,” she says.
“I’ve been really lucky in the amazing support I’ve had from my family, they would literally do anything to support my dreams.”
However, she has also found a family in her team mates, her family on the road.
“My team mates became my family.”
“Until you experience how much they care and revolve their lives around being a part of this team I don’t think you can really appreciate it.”
Georgia hopes her story will inspire others not only to wear their hearts on their sleeves but also to forget the odds and chase their dreams.
“It’s so rewarding and important to do.
“My mum, who is my absolute hero, would always tell me ‘life gives you too many hurdles and lows to not chase your dreams and do what makes you happy’.”
Even if it doesn’t come easy.
“We weren’t really expected to do very well,” Georgia says about the 2015 China championships.
But her team took the silver home.
Georgia was also part of the team for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games qualifying tryouts, and despite not qualifying for the Olympics, her team won the 2016 National Championships.
“Last year was probably when I realised how far I could push myself, because if we weren’t training, we were travelling and competing,” Georgia says.
“It really tested my ability to push my body and my mind.
“I guess this was a part where I found so much passion and love for the game that I was willing to do anything for it.”
In a bid to push her boundaries further, she decided to play with the men’s wheelchair basketball team, the Red Dust Heelers, to challenge herself and learn.
“There is no room for a weak link with the men, they will pull you apart if you show weakness,” the 22-year-old basketball player says.
But this only encourages her to be better.
Georgia’s life revolves mostly around taking care of herself. She trains at the gym three times a week and is on the court five to six days a week to prepare for the next World Championships in two years time.
However, she hopes to be able to finish a degree in occupational therapy soon in between trips and games.
“I’ve kind of had 12 years of experiencing every single hurdle possible so I want to give back on that and not have other people experience what I’ve had to,” she says.
In a bid to bring her dream of helping others closer, Georgia regularly meets with spinal cord injury patients at Princess Margaret Hospital to help them throughout their recovery as a mentor and support figure.
“Health professionals can only go so far, you need someone you can relate to and speak of real experiences,” she says.
“Everyone has their own story, everyone has their own struggle, it’s amazing over the years that people feel that they can come up to me and share with me their stories.
“It’s just another day to me, I don’t see myself as inspiring, I’m just doing what I love. “
To find out more about those who encouraged Georgia to break her own boundaries, check out the fourth part of her story next week.
“Giving up is no option,” Georgia says with determination.
As soon as she came to terms with her new life, five or six years after the accident that left her paralysed, she let sport into her life again.
“I gave all sports a fair go following my accident, from tennis to hand-cycling and even swimming,” Georgia says.
She participated in swimming competitions and even broke Australian records, but it wasn’t what she longed for.
“I got sick of focusing on the black line in the swimming pool.”
So she changed the goggles and the bathers for a ball.
“It wasn’t until I had my first go at basketball about six years ago that I never looked back since.”
As young as fifteen, Georgia got on a plane with the Australian under 25 basketball players to compete in the world championship in Canada, where they won a silver medal.
However, it wasn’t until she joined the Western Stars that everything suddenly clicked.
“It was the comradery that really helped me through the disability,” she says.
“Wheelchair basketball has opened up so many opportunities for me.
“I thoroughly enjoy the journey and the lead up to tournaments because I’m doing something that I love on a daily basis.
“Sport has challenged me in finding myself.”
To find out more about Georgia’s future plans and ambitions read the third part of her story next week.
“I’ve been able to travel around the world and experience so many different cultures and people with barriers that they have had to overcome to be where they are,” 22-year-old Georgia says.
“I’m doing something I enjoy on a daily basis, but I’m also having to challenge myself to know that I am preparing myself to be the best I can be.”
Georgia sounds like an adventurer or a traveller, definitely a determined person.
She grew up in a family of sport enthusiasts. From a very young age, Georgia was playing tennis tournaments with her sister and enjoying an active life.
But all of a sudden her life flipped upside down.
“I was about ten when it happened,” Georgia says.
“My family is originally from the country, so they bought a few acres in the bottom of Kalamunda.
“We were at a neighbour’s house.
“A young boy wasn’t really paying attention whilst on a ride-on lawnmower and ran over me.”
Georgia broke her back.
“It put my life on hold for a couple of years.”
She had to come to terms with a wheelchair, a new house and a new life, filled with hospital stays, physiotherapists and rehabilitation.
“My parents tried very hard to get life back to as normal as possible as soon as possible,” she says.
“But simple things like our gravel driveway had to be paved.”
It was through rehabilitation that Georgia found the strength and inspiration to move forward.
She met other people with disabilities throughout her recovery, with similar stories to which she could relate.
However, it wasn’t until she was in year 10 when she found the sport that changed her life and sent her to travel across the globe: wheelchair basketball.
To find out more about Georgia’s story stay tuned, the second part of her story will be available next week.
“It’s hard to accept that the body and circumstances will never be the same,” adaptive MTB advocate Andrew Liddawi says.
“There’s moments when I feel like picking up the wheelchair and throwing it.”
“Sometimes, it’s about putting on my shoes and knowing I can never get up and walk on these legs again.”
But he says that life goes on, and bad days are not the end of the world.
It’s projects like “Break the Boundary” that keep motivating him to move forward.
“I don’t really go looking for motivation,” the rider says.
“I simply get excited about discovering new trails and places around the country.
“I get inspired by the future possibilities of having an adaptive MTB program in the country with a range of participants.”
He hopes to break his own limits once again by completing the Cape to Cape for the second time, and encouraging others to follow a similar path.
“It’s scary doing something that nobody knows much about, but I’m not just going to sit around and wait for something to happen, I’m going to create it,” Andrew says.
“I want this photoshoot to capture my passion and help others pursue their own passions, sports or otherwise.
“There’s no limit to your passion.”
“I had a five to ten year plan, I had a career planned out, a three-year graduate role, a stint to Canberra and setting out internationally,” adaptive mountain bike rider Andrew Liddawi says.
“But that plan just stopped in its tracks, and it was too bad; I didn’t think I had a choice.”
Andrew says his accident changed his life and priorities forever.
“It changed completely, I had to fly back here because I’m Perth raised and I needed family support,” he says.
“It was probably more to help my immediate family, as it was better for them to help me adapt in a city that was more known to them.”
Physical recovery was hard, but what really took a toll on Andrew’s mental health and wellbeing was the effect his accident had on his relationships with family and friends.
“It was one of the bigger things for me, seeing how friends treated me differently,” he says.
“It’s not an easy thing for anyone, they distanced themselves from me.
“They were probably scared, not knowing how to deal with it.”
However, he kept pushing forward and breaking expectations.
“I achieve it with my hunger to succeed, biting the bullet and just jumping in the deep end,” he says.
“But of course, this is something I cannot do alone.”
Despite his initial struggle to keep his relationship world in place, Andrew has surrounded himself with a support crew of experienced riders and friends that keep encouraging him to pursue his dreams.
“On every ride, I have a support rider, in case I get stuck or hurt, they are there to assist me in my adventures,” he explains.
“From flipping me back onto all three tyres, to creating a new path around obstacles blocking our intended direction”
He says his team sorts out little technicalities like obstacles and falls, but also gives him the motivation he needs to put himself at test.
“The long marathon legs are much more enjoyable for my sanity,” he says.
“To get me through the next 5km and then the next five – it’s always easier with a support rider.
“Why enjoy the views and surrounds by myself, when I can share it with a close friend or enthusiastic support rider?”
Due to small difficulties during the beach section at the Cape to Cape race, Andrew had to deviate from the initial route in 2015.
However, the eager rider and advocate is training with his crew to hit the dirt again and complete the original Cape to Cape route in 2016.
If you want to find out more about what Andrew Liddawi plans for the future, don’t miss out on next week’s post.
It took three years after the accident that turned his life upside down for Andrew Liddawi to think about getting back into the sport which could have easily killed him.
But his love for mountain biking reignited and he was craving to get back on the trails with his friends.
However, he had no idea if putting on a jersey and pedaling again was within reach for a man stranded on a wheelchair.
He started researching tirelessly, until he stumbled across adaptive mountain biking equipment.
“I didn’t know such a sport existed, but after extensive research, I came across the off road hand cyclists overseas,” Andrew says.
“I managed to get funding through Wheelchair Sports WA to purchase a trike, manufactured over in Europe.
“No one had really picked it up in Australia for the off road use.”
Andrew embraced the sport and committed himself to establishing adaptive MTB as an option for Australia’s riders with a disability.
Over the next few months after importing the trike, Andrew assisted Wheelchair Sports WA in getting two more handcycles to help introduce more people with disabilities into the wilderness.The trikes are adaptable for different mountain biking disciplines and levels of disability. They are suited for downhill, cross country and marathon, and allow riders to kneel down or lay back and pedal with their hands.
“Now I am constantly testing trails and meeting with committees to arrange adjustments to the trail network,” Andrew says.
“I am more of an advocate for the sport rather than an athlete.”
Andrew has taken it upon himself to build a network and affiliations to establish the sport in Australia. He says making the sport he fell in love with before his accident possible for himself and others like him, is a long but rewarding journey.
Andrew never gave up on the freedom of riding. In 2013, Andrew became the first Australian with a disability to contest a mountain biking race, the Cape to Cape MTB, and he completed 200kms over all four stages in 2015.
The pioneer rider has created the campaign “Break the Boundary” to raise awareness about adaptive mountain biking in Australia and to encourage others like him to get off-road.
“I can now look back at moments like that and say that there’s always a way around limitations – there’s different and unexplored ways of thinking about self-imposed boundaries,” he says.
Andrew says he’s motivated to keep pushing those boundaries. After all the name of his campaign says it all: Break the Boundary.
To find out more about Andrew’s story, stay tuned for next week’s post.
“Nothing beats the feeling of getting lost in the bush; grabbing a mate, throwing a backpack on and going out for a ride,” Andrew Liddawi says.
He has a determined look on his face.
“Discovering new trails, and even getting stuck, is something very exciting for me.
“The challenge of doing a trail most people would think is not possible and going to a committee saying ‘I’ve done this trail, this trail and this trail,’ it’s a thrill.”
In a day like today, lost in Western Australia’s endless bush, Andrew Liddawi would zoom past with his bike, with the wind in his face and leaving puffs of dust in his wake.
The Perth local got into sport when he was studying a double major in engineering at university. In between days of soccer, basketball, taekwondo and running, he tried mountain biking. However, he didn’t take it seriously, not yet at least.
After graduating in 2008, riding became more than just a hobby.. It was just another day on the trails, surrounded by nature when his dreams came crashing down. Andrew had been riding seriously for four months in the Queensland trails, when he lost control and crashed his bike.
“I landed on my head, crushing my T10 vertebrae,” he says.
“Instantly paralysed from the waist down.”
His life flipped upside down completely.
Instead of grabbing the bike and getting lost in the bush, Andrew had to attend rehabilitation, reorganise his finances, adapt his house for wheelchair use, and reconsider his entire career.
It took him more than a year to come to terms with his new life, and three more years would pass until he thought about going back to the bush again.
However, when he finally did, Andrew Liddawi would revolutionise Australian sport forever.
To read more about Andrew’s story stay tuned, the second part of his story will be available next week.