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1998 - 2018
When Kurt Fearnley AO was born, doctors didn’t think he would live for more than a week. He had a congenital disorder called sacral agenesis which prevented foetal development of some parts of his lower spine and his entire sacrum. Raised in the tiny NSW Central West town of Carcoar – population 200 – Fearnley played several sports as a child, including rugby league.
His first sporting medal was for long jump, but at 14 he took up wheelchair racing and just three years later was racing at an elite level. In time he inspired all Australians through his efforts to become a three-time Paralympic gold medallist, a two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist while his 40 marathon victories include New York, Chicago, and London.
However, Fearnley didn’t restrict his inspiring feats to wheelchair sports. In 2009, he took 10 days to crawl his way along the Kokoda Track, the scene of the nightmarish World War II battle in Papua New Guinea, to raise awareness of men’s health. In 2012 he was a crew member of the line honours winning yacht, Investec Loyal – although he admitted his memory of the race was the ‘white knuckle’ terror of battling the boiling ocean.
Fearnley’s ability to inspire and unite were recognised by team officials at the 2016 Rio Paralympics when he and Daniela Di Toro were named captains, while he was selected as Australia’s flag bearer at the 2018 Commonwealth Games closing ceremony. Fearnley was further honoured in 2018 when he was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia.
In 2019, Fearnley’s achievements were recognised with his being named the New South Wales Australian of the Year, while the Commonwealth Games Australia and the Carbine Club of NSW present the annual Kurt Fearnley Scholarship program to continue to promote and support talented individual Para sports throughout NSW. The initiative receives program support from NSWIS and is fully endorsed by Paralympics Australia.
“NSWIS allows you to have the structures to make you feel like you’re not doing it alone. They can give you the coaching support, the physios, the nurses, the psychologist, to ensure that you are better at the end of your career than when you started.”
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