THE night before Carcoar wheelchair athlete Kurt Fearnley clipped his helmet on for his final event at a Paralympic Games, he took a moment to reflect on his career.
It was 16 years earlier that he got his first taste of the Paralympic Games – a point in time when he was still finding his way in the sport.
He placed 32nd in the Sydney 2000 marathon.
“Weird thinking about me at 13, wondering and dreaming about where it would go,” Fearnely tweeted.
He went on to win silver in the men’s T54 marathon in Rio to take his tally of career Paralympic Games medals to 13.
That count reflects the talent and consistency of Fearnley, while his standing amongst the Paralympic community was also acknowledged.
He joint captained the Australia team in Rio and on Monday was elected to the six-member International Paralympic Committee’s Athletes Council.
After the marathon, Fearnley was asked what advice he would offer himself as a 13-year-old if he had the chance.
“I would avoid him at all costs,” Fearnley quipped.
“I would let him do what he had to do to get to this point and every point that has happened.”
Across the five Paralympic Games he participated in, Fearnley had the highs of winning three gold medals.
But he had his tough days as well and he relishes those almost as much.
“Some of the most memorable moments are the hardest moments and those are eventually the things you become most proud of,” he said.
“When you wake and you win it’s awesome, [but] they’re the easy days.
“Where you wake up and you can barely drag yourself out of bed, where you are in so much pain and discomfort, where you are mentally just trying to grind yourself to just believe – they’re the tough days and they’re the ones I’m proud of.”
Though Fearnley has called time on his Paralympic career, he has not retired from racing overall.
He plans to race at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast – having previously won 1,500 metres gold and silver at that level – and take on the international circuit which includes the likes of the Chicago, London and New York marathons.
Fearnley has won 32 marathons in his career thus far and no doubt he will add to that before he ends his racing days.