Paralympian Kurt Fearnley plans for one last hurrah
KURT Fearnley plans to "sink everything" into his 2016 Paralympic Games campaign.
The inspirational wheelchair athlete who crawled the Kokoda Track said during his visit to Rockhampton on Friday that the Rio Games would be his last.
He would no doubt be happy to add to his already impressive medal tally, which currently stands at 11 from the four previous games in Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London.
But Kurt is quick to point out that the medals are not the true reward.
In fact, when asked where he keeps his prized collection, he answered nonchalantly: "I don't know where they are. I know mum and dad have got a few, but the medals are secondary by far.
"Compared to the significance of the moment ... when you finish the race, you grab your family and you have a hug, those are the things you really treasure.
"They're the moments," he said.
Kurt was in Rockhampton to address The Link Lunches, an initiative of The Morning Bulletin.
He gave guests an insight into the ups and downs of his incredible journey.
Kurt was born with lumbar sacral agenesis (missing the lower portion of his spine).
At age 14, he took up wheelchair racing. An incredible drive and unwavering spirit soon saw him earn a place among wheelchair sports elite.
But of all his achievements, it was the epic adventure on the Kokoda Track in 2009 that captivated the world and resonated with so many as a display of the fighting spirit for which Australians are renowned.
"It was hard... hard to explain it," Kurt said. "Hands down, it's the toughest thing I've ever had a look at."
He crawled the 96km, accompanied by his brothers and uncles. It was, in part, a salute to some of his relatives lost in bloody warfare on the trail.
"But I don't think you really need that," Kurt said. "The connection with Australia - it doesn't have to be intensely personal."
In between his demanding competitive schedule and his speaking engagements, Kurt is a high school teacher.
He offered some advice for the Year 12 students who are set to embark on a new chapter in their lives.
"Figure out what you want to be. When you've done that, the job's half done."
Kurt's list of achievements includes:
- 43 marathons, 31 wins and 10 other podium finishes.
- Has won the Sydney Marathon six times, the New York Marathon three times consecutively and has posted victories in Paris, London, Seoul and Chicago.
- Has won three gold, six silver and two bronze medals across four Paralympic Games.