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What a Year! Celebrating our Champion Athletes with Disability

IDPWD 2022

“It’s time for you to challenge your unconscious biases, leave your negative perceptions at the door and lift your expectation of what you think people with disability can do. Because it’s always more than you think.” – Dylan Alcott


With
International Day of People with Disability coming up on December 3, we’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate a truly incredible year for our champion athletes with disability.

When we say it’s been an extraordinary year in sport, we really mean it. Between Dylan Alcott, Kurt Fearnley, Jessica Gallagher, Madison de Rozario and Ellie Cole, 2022 has delivered an impressive list of accomplishments and accolades… Australian of the Year, Officer of the Order of Australia Medal, Medal of the Order of Australia, Athletics Australia Performance of the Year award, Paralympics Hall of Fame inductee, Commonwealth Games golden double in the women’s T53/54 marathon and 1500m and two women’s tandem cycling Commonwealth Games gold medals, just to name a few.

And the year’s not even over yet.

These proud Australian athletes provide inspiration and hope to the 4.4 million Australians living with disability, constantly challenging misconceptions and breaking down barriers on and off their chosen fields.

As we celebrate their achievements, we also increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability – and that’s what International Day of People with Disability is all about.

As the Marathon Man of wheelchair sports, Kurt Fearnley, so wisely observed, “Disability is a natural part of the human condition, yet all too often, people with disability aren’t disabled by their bodies, but they’re disabled by society.”

We all have a role to play in ensuring people with disability have the opportunity to reach their potential and participate fully in community life. By joining the conversation about disability, you can help these athletes challenge stereotypes and make your community and workplace more accessible, respectful and inclusive for people with disability.

Are you ready to help make a difference?

Our champion athletes, Dylan Alcott, Ellie Cole, Kurt Fearnley, Jessica Gallagher and Madison de Rozario, are all passionate and captivating speakers – and they’re ready to share their inspiring stories with your team.

Dylan Alcott: As a talented dual-athlete, Dylan is one of the world’s most celebrated sportspeople and a true Aussie legend. With 23 quad wheelchair Grand Slam titles to his name, Dylan’s accomplishments include a record-shattering 2021 in which he took home Olympic gold and became the first male ever to claim the illustrious Golden Slam. Dylan’s projects off the court, which include The Dylan Alcott Foundation, Ability Fest and Get Skilled Access are testament to his belief that being disabled is no barrier to success, nor to happiness. As a TV commentator, radio DJ and popular motivational speaker, Dylan uses his public stage to normalise and destigmatise disability – and it’s this relentless dedication to changing perceptions that earned him the 2022 Australian of the Year award, the first person with a visible disability to secure the title in the award’s 62-year history.

Jessica Gallagher: With two tandem cycling gold medals at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, sight-impaired high-performance athlete Jessica Gallagher cemented herself as one of the greatest female athletes of all time. Having represented Australia in four different sporting disciplines (track and field, alpine skiing, cycling and now rowing), Jessica was the first Australian athlete – Olympic or Paralympic – to medal at both a Summer and Winter Games. Her life outside of sport is just as hectic as her training schedule, filled with commitments as a Board Director at Vision 2020 Australia and ambassador for Vision Australia and Seeing Eye Dogs Australia, as well as seeing patients in her private Osteopathic practice.

Kurt Fearnley: Kurt’s induction into the Paralympic Hall of Fame this year reinforced his place amongst the best-ever Australian athletes. Crowned as the Marathon Man of wheelchair sports, Kurt won five world championships and competed in over twenty marathons around the globe. He also medalled at four Olympic Games, taking home gold medals in 2004 and 2008 and winning the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games marathon. Kurt is an Ambassador of the Day of Difference Foundation and International Day of People with a Disability, as well as board member of Australian Volunteers International, and in 2018 was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for his outstanding service and achievements.

Madison de Rozario: In 2019 Madison became the first Australian in history to win the elite women’s wheelchair race at the London Marathon, and a few weeks later collected a hat-trick of gold medals at the World Para-athletics Grand Prix. At the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Madison won the first ever Paralympic gold medal for the Australian Athletics Team in the women’s 800m and then fought out a stunning win in the Marathon. At the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Madison successfully defended her golden double of the 2018 Games with wins in the 1500m and Marathon, and was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia and the Athletics Australia Bruce McAvaney Award for Performance of the Year.

Ellie Cole: Ellie Cole is Australia’s most decorated female Paralympian, with 17 Paralympic medals to her credit from four Paralympic Games. In 2012, following a 6-medal haul (including 4 gold) at the London Paralympics, Ellie underwent a double shoulder reconstruction and fought hard to get back in the water. She made her return at the 2015 Swimming World Championships, winning 5 medals – 3 of which were gold. She has since represented Australia at the 2016 and 2018 Paralympics, as well as the 2018 and 2022 Commonwealth Games. Ellie has been named Cosmopolitan Magazine’s ‘Sportswoman of the Year’, and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for her service to sport. 


With International Day of People with Disability just 6 weeks away, it’s time to lock in a motivational speaker to talk to your team. Our champion disabled athletes will challenge misconceptions and attitudes, and help make your workplace a more inclusive space for all. If you’d like us to introduce you, simply get in touch with us for a chat

A Day in the Life of a Commonwealth Games Champion

Jess Gallagher

** Commonwealth Games update: Congratulations to Jessica Gallagher and her sighted pilot Caitlin Ward on winning GOLD in both the tandem sprint and the 1km time trial!! **

“What separates an ordinary woman from an extraordinary one? The belief that she is ordinary” – Jody Williams, Nobel Laureate

Ever wonder what the life of an elite athlete is like? The routine, the dedication, the sacrifices made and the hours of work required? We go behind the scenes with Australian Summer and Winter Paralympic medallist Jessica Gallagher in the final stages of her preparation for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in London and, just six weeks later, the 2022 World Rowing Championships in the Czech Republic.

As a kid, Jessica Gallagher always loved sport. Her mum was an all-round athlete, and Jessica loved watching her run around the netball court. Following in her mum’s footsteps, Jessica was passionate about both netball and basketball – and pretty good at them too, representing Victoria in both sports.

In her Geelong backyard Jessica dreamed big, playing out her own victories, picturing herself shooting the winning goal, decked out in the famous green and gold. However, at the age of 17, she lost the majority of her sight and was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative eye disease. Jessica believed her childhood dream of representing Australia was over.

Never in a million years did Jessica imagine that through the world of Paralympic sport, she would go on to represent Australia in four different sporting disciplines.

It’s been 16 years since Jessica started her Paralympic career, initially in track and field before transitioning to alpine ski racing. In 2010 Jessica became Australia’s first female winter Paralympic medallist when she won a bronze medal in the Slalom at the Vancouver Winter Paralympics. She moved between the two sports for the following four years, winning World Championship medals in Long Jump and Javelin before taking home a bronze medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics. It was after these Games that Jessica learnt her premier track and field event, Long Jump, had been removed from the next Summer Paralympics to be held in 2016.

With the dream of winning Summer and Winter Paralympic medals, Jessica made the decision to try a third sport, track cycling. It was at the Games in Rio that Jessica became the first Australian athlete – Olympic or Paralympic – to medal at both a Summer and Winter Paralympic Games when she won a bronze in the 1km time trial.

It’s track cycling that will take Jessica to the 2022 Commonwealth Games, and rowing – her most recent sporting transition – that will take her to the 2022 World Rowing Championships.

So what does it take to be a successful multi-sport athlete? We asked Jessica what a day in her life is like… and fair warning, it’s exhausting just to read!

In sport, they say it takes a village, and for Jessica nothing rings truer with a dedicated team guiding and supporting her. Planning and preparation in scheduling ensures Jessica’s time can run efficiently whilst she manages her training loads and multiple work commitments.

Most days Jessica begins well before the sun rises with a rowing session on the Yarra River in Melbourne. The rest of her day generally includes a mix of either track cycling sessions at the velodrome, a gym workout, erg or watt bike sessions intertwined with speaking engagements, Osteopathic work or administration work for the variety of roles she has outside of sport. No week is ever the same as the last.

Jessica’s load is a heavy one, but it’s a choice she happily made because – as she says – it’s not every day you have the privilege of representing your country in two sports! Managing her energy is something she is constantly aware of, and over the years Jessica has learned to listen to her body. Through past experiences (good and bad!) she now understands when she can push, and when she needs to take a step back and regenerate from the demands on her body and her time.

As a qualified Osteopath, Jessica knows about the body, and there’s no doubt that her deep understanding of the physiological and biomechanical aspects of her sports comes in handy when transitioning from one sport to another. But she credits her team – which includes her tandem pilot, domestic and Australian cycling and rowing coaches, rowing crew mates, training buddies, strength and conditioning, nutrition, allied health (Osteo, Physio and massage), sports administrators and bike mechanics – with helping her maintain peak physical fitness.

So what motivates Jessica? The pathway getting there, the highs, the lows and everything in between. It’s what she learns about herself through these experiences that motivates her to keep pushing her boundaries.

Whilst there isn’t a lot of downtime leading into the Commonwealth Games and World Rowing Championships, it’s the road Jessica chooses to take.  Her life outside of sport is just as important to her, so in amongst training and competitions are speaking engagements, seeing patients in her private Osteopathic practice and the relevant work involved as a Board Director at Vision 2020 Australia and ambassador for Vision Australia and Seeing Eye Dogs Australia.

For now, relaxation time is rare. But for Jessica, she wouldn’t have it any other way. Her choices afford her the privilege of chasing opportunities, and a journey to learn, grow and discover who she is and what she is capable of doing. And for Jessica, that’s what it’s all about.

We wish Jess all the best for the Commonwealth Games and World Rowing Championships, and look forward to following her incredible journey!

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As a sight-impaired high-performance athlete, Jessica Gallagher isn’t short on courage. Hurtling down a mountain at 100km/hr with someone else acting as your sight, or riding a tandem bike you can’t control at 68km/hour certainly takes oodles of it! As one of our most popular motivational speakers, Jess shares her unique journey with audiences worldwide, warming hearts and challenging people to see the world from a whole new perspective. She gives audiences practical tips and tools to create positive and sustainable habits to help them live their best life, inspiring them to break the boundaries of possibility. If you’d like to talk to us about engaging Jess for your next event, get in touch with us now!