As a kid, I wasn’t one to have sporting heroes. Honestly, I just didn’t like sport. I played hockey (sporadically and badly) but avoided every other form of exercise and, by default, also avoided sporty types of people. Some of my friends liked footballers but I was much more likely to have pictures of singers and bands on my walls.
As an adult, especially since taking up running, I do have a couple of sporting role models who I admire. Their spirit and tenacity is part of what I draw on when long runs get tough. One very significant one is Kurt Fearnley.
For the few of you who may not have heard of him, Kurt Fearnley is a Paralympic gold medallist, multiple marathon winner and all round good guy. And what better way to become acquainted with him and his story than read his autobiography – ‘Pushing the limits’.
This book takes you on the journey from his birth and through his idyllic childhood, growing up in a supportive family and wider community in country NSW. The long and winding journey from Carcoar to the start line of the New York marathon and an Olympic podium is littered with amusing stories, significant challenges and setbacks and many laughs, all told in a very down to earth manner. Throughout the book, I kept thinking what an incredible ambassador Kurt is for Australia in all he does – setting incredibly high standards for himself and relentlessly pursuing his goals but, at the same time, demonstrating outstanding sportsmanship and compassion for others along the way. Qualities we could all do to cultivate.
More importantly, the message that Kurt leaves us with is a crucially important one – to not allow preconceived notions limit the life chances and choices of people with a disability. To believe that equally high expectations of life are just as important for people with a disability as for those without and to make sure our actions support that belief. The story about his treatment at the hands of a major Australian airline was an eye opener for me and made me angry at the lack of consideration given. As well as enjoying immensely hearing about his story, I valued the opportunity this book gave me to open my mind up to new ideas and perspectives I haven’t experienced and expose some of the challenges the world puts up for people with a disability. An inspiring read in many ways.