34 YEARS OLD AND ONLY 140CM TALL,
PARALYMPIC AND WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS GOLD MEDALLIST,
40 TIMES MARATHON CHAMPION,
SYDNEY TO HOBART YACHT RACE WINNER,
CRAWLED KOKODA TRACK! – 96 KM, FINISHING IN 11 DAYS.
There’s many reasons why I love this bloke. The first one is that he grew up in a small country town in NSW called Carcoar, which is much smaller than my home town of Cobar for that matter. He’s also the survivor of many hardships and adversities; and inspires and teaches others his mentally resilient traits through his motivational speeches, school visits, and hard grind in sport and worldly adventures
Kurt is mostly well known for his accomplishments in the race chair, but what resonates most with me about him is his pride and dignity to give back to and fight for the disabled community.
Kurt was born bum first, and the doctor broke his right thighbone trying to get his legs back into position. Without understanding the full effects of Kurt’s condition, the hospital staff warned his parents that there were major concerns with their new born baby.
As parents, you can only imagine the horrifying experience in the hospital when your new born is whisked away from you. They were told there’s something wrong, but weren’t quite sure what it was straight away.
The following day when Kurt and his mum, Jackie were transferred to a Sydney hospital she was told Kurt had a rare congenital disorder called Lumbosacral Agenesis. This meant he was born without the lower part of his spine and sacrum. His legs would be non functional for life.
It was suggested to Kurt’s parents that they consider special care for Kurt, as they already had four able bodied children back home to care for. This was never contemplated by the family, who took him straight back to their farm house in Carcoar and let him roam free like all the other kids.
Kurt was never treated any differently by his parents and his siblings, and the Carcoar community. He was constantly encouraged and told that he could do anything. A belief that he engrained in his culture for life.
Kurt has lived his life around a wheelchair. You can never say he’s confined to a wheelchair, and he certainly didn’t grow up that way. Yes, the wheelchair is his legs, as he puts it. On his farm he often crawled up hills and under barbed wire fences, rode the pony, and also hunted rabbits with ferrets.
Whoever would have guessed, that all this time Kurt spent out of his wheelchair it was preparing and shaping him for the crawl of his life when he crawled the Kokoda track in 2009 on his hands and elbows! This is a gruelling feat that most of us able-bodied humans would struggle to conquer. He covered 96km of extremely rugged terrain in Papua New Guinea (PNG) for 11 days, that Kurt reflected on as being “the toughest 11 days I will ever have on this planet”.
PNG is a country that shuns the disabled and Kurt’s crawl became much more than a lifetime achievement. It was a symbolic inspiration to the disabled kids of PNG who “were right there on his shoulders as he crawled the track”, said a local PNG man to Kurt.
Kurt is a great ambassador and advocate for the disability sector in Australia. He sits on the Independent Advisory Board for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS is a healthcare program initiated by the Australian government for Australians with a disability, aiming to provide reasonable and necessary support for people with significant and permanent disability. His passion to help other disabled people and to raise awareness of the struggles and lack of support for the disabled community is inspirational. He gives an experienced voice to the issues and fights from his heart and inner emotions with a vision to see disabled people in Australia supported more equally and fairly.
At the beginning of his book, ‘Pushing The Limits’, Kurt devotes it all to his parents and immediate family for all their support, including his wife and son. He also includes the communities of Carcoar, Newcastle (where he has lived and trained for the past 10? years), also his sport that has helped shape him as the man he is today. A trait of Kurt’s that I admire greatly is the recognition of his communities, never forgetting his roots.
Kurt Fearnley is a living legend. He would hate me saying that, however it’s also the opinion of thousands of other Australians. Yes, he’s a Paralympic and World champion, but he’s also a very humble guy with a massive heart. He has desirable core beliefs and values; and a passion that could be bottled and sold. Hence why Andrew Denton says “Kurt Fearnley gives life a good name”.
My copy of Kurt’s book is signed on the inside page with the following inspirational note:
To Robbo, the motivation gained through hardship makes us stronger than we could have ever been. Be grateful, be giving, and be fierce. Love your work…. Kurt Fearnley
To be a part of Kurt’s community and remain inspired by his efforts you can connect with him on the social media platforms below.
Twitter and Periscope – @kurtfearnley
Instagram – kurtfearnleyinsta
Facebook – Kurt Fearnley
Website – kurtfearnley.com