Despite this prognosis, Katrina was determined to become an elite athlete from a young age. Unlike her family members natural talent, this wasn’t going to be enough to get Katrina to the top level.
Katrina’s parents didn’t let her brain damage hold her back. They encouraged her to do everything she wanted to do growing up. Which involved almost every sport possible, including netball.
Katrina knew she had a mild disadvantage when she was playing sport in school, and tried to hide it. She wanted to be seen and treated the same as everybody else. Katrina’s parents treated her the same as her sister, and that’s how she wanted to be treated by everyone else.
This mindset was the best way to hide her condition, and saw her working much harder than any of the other athletes and students.
This determination paid off for Katrina, when at the age of 18, she was awarded a netball scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport. Life was on track for the young sportster.
Unfortunately, 3 months into the scholarship, Katrina’s weakness on her right side began to fail the demands of the increased load of netball training and she developed Patellar Tendonitis. (Patellar tendonitis is an injury to the tendon connecting your kneecap to your shinbone. The patellar tendon works with the muscles at the front of your thigh to extend your knee so you can, run and jump. Which, as you can imagine, is problematic for a netball player.)
During her physiotherapy treatment for this injury, things got worse for Katrina, as she found out for the first time in her life that she also had mild Cerebral Palsy (CP). Katrina had known her whole life that she had muscle weakness due to mild brain damage, but Katrina and her family were unaware that she actually had a diagnosed disability.
Shortly after, Katrina was approached by the AIS Paralympic Track and Field Head Coach and told about the potential to represent her country at the Atlanta Paralympic games the following year, if she was to be officially classed in the Cerebral Palsy classification.
Can you imagine living your life as a competitive athlete, taking a major step in your sporting career by securing the highest scholarship available in the country, and then finding out you had a diagnosed disability?
Katrina had to make a choice. Do I leave the sport I love and all my friends, and a scholarship I’d worked so hard for, to take the risk in a sport that highlights my disability that I have tried to hide my whole life?
Her fear of acceptance grew. Katrina became worried about how she would be perceived by new people she met. Would her friends still want to be her friends?
There were the obvious positives that helped her weigh up her options. Positives such as representing her country and travelling the world. However, it was the thought that she could help others along the way that made the decision easier.
“I knew if I could become self aware, accept my disability, have enough courage to take a risk and try something new, then maybe, I could become a role model to help inspire other children and adults with the same disability”.
Katrina leaped, and the net appeared.
Katrina went on to represent her country at Three Paralympic Games, Two World Championships, and a home Commonwealth Games, winning a total of 4 gold, 8 silver and 1 bronze, and later being awarded an Order Of Australia medal for her achievements.
Her determined mindset and family’s sports gene had cohered to help her achieve excellence. It turned out that Katrina’s biggest fear, her disability, became her greatest asset.
Katrina’s desire to help others has now extended well beyond the sporting realm.
She became a qualified physiotherapist, is a motivational speaker and has spoken at the United Nations International Year of Sport in New York 2006 and recently presented a Tedx talk. She’s also a proud mother of 3, and an inspirational role model for women in leadership.
Most humbling for Katrina is her contribution to humanitarianism, where she has helped raise over $25,000 for the Nepalese communities devastated by the Earthquakes earlier this year.
To learn more about Katrina’s ability to achieve excellence despite facing great adversity, and her ability to influence and inspire so many others in the world, follow her on twitter: @KatrinaLWebb and check out www.katrinawebb.com.au