Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The other day I had the privilege of heading up to Castlemaine, to H.M. Prison Loddon.  Now you might ask why it was a privilege and hopefully through this posting you will understand why.

I headed up there to do a talk to some of the inmates, through the Street Soccer Program run by “The Big Issue”.  For those of you who don’t know “The Big Issue”, it is a magazine which is sold on the streets by those who aren’t as fortunate as the rest of us.  Some of them are homeless, some are struggling with addiction and some have physical or intellectual disabilities, but it gives them a job and a purpose. (see www.bigissue.org.au)

So I went to the prison on the day that the Street Soccer program is run to talk to them about setting goals and believing in themselves.  The soccer program is amazing and I guess the best way to describe it is in the words of Craig Foster “Street Soccer is one of the most inspirational examples of social transformation in Australia”.  It gives the players the support and motivation they need to change their lives.

At Loddon Prison they have about 20 intellectual disabled inmates and each is paired with a mentor.  Loddon is a medium security prison so houses men who have committed white collar crimes, serious driving offences or men finishing their sentence for a more serious crime and are coming to the time when they will be released.  The mentors assist the others with things such as learning to budget money for food, how to prepare a menu for the week and also how to cook.  There are numerous classes at the prison to make sure they are ready to live in the real world.

So here I was to talk about my life, facing my diagnosis and my fears about that, then how I set goals for myself.  I talked about the knock backs from different areas but how I refused to let that stop me.  As I said to them “when one door closes, another one will open, you just have to look for it.”  I certainly didn’t refuse to acknowledge that they had done something wrong so were doing the time for that, but that they had to have dreams and goals for when they left the confines of the prison.

I was extremely surprised at the end of speaking how many questions came my way.  It was the most inquisitive group I have ever spoken to.  Some of the questions were about my MS diagnosis, some about MS itself and a lot about my sporting careers.  We had a lot of laughs during the afternoon!  We then went outside so that some of them could show off their soccer skills and I must say there are a couple of the guys I can see being on the national Street Soccer Team!  I was even treated to the best coffee I have ever had and a piece of amazing cake, just taken out of the oven!

But this visit made me realize that we all have choices in life and because of those choices and actions we create consequences in our lives.  There are some actions that empower and enrich your life. But then there are other choices and actions that lead only to regret and disappointment.  These men I met on this afternoon had made choices that seriously compromised their future and are now paying the consequences.

As I said at the beginning that it was a privilege to speak to them that day and I think that it was because of the old saying “But for the grace of God go I”.  We have all done things in our past that could have led to serious consequences, we have just been lucky that nothing ever bad happened.

So if there is anything that you take out of this post I want everyone to remember that in every moment, with each thought and action you take, you are choosing your consequences.  Take advantage of each opportunity to choose the very best!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Star Struck

When I headed to the Sunshine Coast in April this year for the Australian Para-cycling Championships never in my wildest dreams did I think that a short 7 months later I would receive an invitation to the Jayco Australian Cyclist of the Year Awards.  So when I received an invite back in October I was a bit taken back!  I decided not to go because I had been cycling for such a short time and to be honest probably thought I didn’t deserve to be there.

Then one week before the awards, the list of nominations for all the awards came out and bugger me…I had been nominated in the Female Para-cyclist of the Year category.  However I was up against Sue Powell, 3 time World Champion this year and a Tandem pair who were also World Champions on the track.  I knew that Sue would win the award with 3 World Titles and a world record, she really was unbeatable!  But all of a sudden I wanted to be there!  A quick email to Cycling Australia told me that there was not a seat to be had, but that they would put me on a wait list.

Well Monday night I got the email that there was a seat available and they had to know right away. First thing I needed to do was book a flight…that done I let them know I would be there.

I am so glad that I went, what a fantastic night!  I felt very privileged to be in the company of some of the world’s best cyclists and all of them Australians.  I had mentioned to the people I was sitting with that I had to get a photo with Cadel Evans.  Well one of the para-cycling coaches Sian Mulholland, without telling me, approached Cadel and asked him to come over to the table.  She introduced me as a dual silver medallist from the World Championships at which time Cadel put his hands on my shoulders and said “I know what it is like to win silver.”  I told him it was the wrong colour and that next year would be different.  He then posed with me for photos! WOW I wanted a photo but this was amazing!

I was lucky in that I also had pictures taken with Anna Meares, Australia’s and the world’s best track cyclist!

In the end Sue Powell did win Female Para-cyclist of the Year and very well deserved!  And I am happy that I did attend, it was an amazing night. 

Australia has amazing athletes who don’t forget their origins.  They may live all over the world and be world class names but they appreciate the accolades of their home nation and proved to me that they are willing to chat and have photos taken with newcomers to the sport like me!

Me with Anna Meares

Cadel mentioning knowing about winning Silver

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

302 Days and Counting

With my trip to Canada over and done I am right back into hard training.  It is only 302 days until the first day of the London Paralympics and it is something that is foremost in my mind.  I still don’t know if I will be on the team but I am going to give myself every chance at being there.

I went to a, well let’s call it, a seminar the other night with 3 time Gold Medal Olympian Drew Ginn.  It was about Goal Setting and boy did it give me more than I ever expected!  Drew is an amazing athlete, but he is more than that, he is a deep thinker, great teacher and the most generous person with his time that I have ever met.  The night was supposed to be 2 hours, but I must say that 2 hours and 55 minutes later I had to drag myself away.

Drew taught me some very important things that night.  Yes it is good to have a goal but why do you have that goal?  He talked about taking the time to reflect not only when things may not go to plan but when things are good.  Reflection helps because what you are trying to achieve is irrelevant…it’s the process of what you are trying to achieve.  He had us look at what our “Focus” is, what challenges we had ahead of us, what we wanted to achieve, what we needed to do that and what we needed to change.  Then it was a look at the “Insight”, in other words what insights from the past we needed to be aware of to support our pathway moving forward.  Next was “Significance, so why does the focus hold significance to you and others and whats your purpose.  Lastly it was “Help”, who will each of us engage with moving forward, who will we need to influence, challenge, support and who will influence, challenge and support us.  It was brilliant!

It reminded me that from each and every circumstance, from each and every experience, there is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to be gained, you just have to reflect!  The goal that I choose has to really matter to me because if it doesn’t then it’s not a priority.  If it isn’t a priority than any distraction or excuse can hold me back.

It really all comes down to communication with all of those “team members” involved in helping you reach that goal.  And after this evening with Drew I have already had a very good conversation with my cycling coach!  He has helped shift my way of thinking and by using his “personal vision map” that he introduced us to I believe it will give me a much better way forward.

With 302 days to go I feel I am more focused than ever and the last 2 weeks of training have been hard but rewarding!  I look forward to the next 5 months before Nationals and thank you to Drew for inspiring me to look in towards myself and really dig deep, to Reflect!

A last quote from Drew Ginn:
“To have a vision is important, to be able to enjoy life, working out ways to make that vision a reality is cool, fun and amazingly rewarding.  I figure if you can visualise it, you can make it happen.”