I needed Sydney to be the perfect ever, I needed the Australian public to witness the world’s most elite Paralympic athletes doing what we do greatest – competing at our highest degree. I had my first probability to indicate my dwelling crowd what I might do on September 28, once I took half within the 800 metres demonstration wheelchair race in Olympic Stadium – on the identical monitor I had pushed round years earlier.
Qualifying had taken place previous to the Video games so this was the ultimate. I used to be so nervous – the one Aussie within the race. I bear in mind getting into the stadium to a sea of color and noise, 110,000 folks watching me. Within the final 200 metres, as I raced into the house straight, all I heard and felt was the group bringing me dwelling to win gold.
I’ll always remember my victory lap, I want I had executed two, nor listening to the group sing the nationwide anthem with me once I was on the dais, realizing the voices of my dad and mom and pals have been amongst that refrain. Nothing beats that feeling.
Three weeks later, I lit the cauldron to mark the beginning of the Paralympic Video games. My position within the Opening Ceremony was a shock for all, together with my household. I went on to compete in three occasions – the 800 metres, 1500 metres and 5000 metres. I had received gold in all three at Atlanta in 1996 and the strain I felt to defend my titles was huge. I put most of it on myself – however I knew the general public needed it as a lot as I did.
The 800m was my first occasion. There was a crash within the first 200 metres of the ultimate, which I managed to keep away from however I completed in second place. There have been protests however the race was not rerun. I went on to win gold within the 1500m and 5000m.
Sydney proved a breakthrough for the Paralympics motion. How proud was I to be Australian when the Video games got here to life. The media and public embraced the Video games. We have been seen as athletes and revered as such, and folks got here and loved all of it, the pure sport that it was. Complete faculties got here to the Video games and the noise was deafening in the primary stadium however so welcomed. Sydney grew to become the benchmark for all future Video games and the motion has grown from the success of 2000.
Sydney was the Video games with a distinction – as a result of it was by myself soil. My household have supported me all through my profession – I’d not have begun wheelchair racing if it weren’t for that first come-and-try occasion I attended as a toddler – and I’ll at all times be grateful that my dad and mom and sister had the possibility to observe me do what I do greatest at these Video games, and to expertise my sport at its highest degree.
I’m nonetheless navigating that monitor at Sydney Olympic Park, now as a coach with the NSW Institute of Sport. I experience being a part of different athletes’ journeys and serving to them obtain their objectives, the way in which I achieved mine in Sydney 20 years in the past. How fortunate I used to be to be a part of the 2000 Paralympic Video games and to nonetheless reap the legacy these video games left behind.