HOPE and inspiration - they are two things that Kurt Fearnley has provided in spades throughout his sporting career and qualities which made him a popular winner of the annual The Don Award.
Last Thursday Fearnley became the first Paralympian to receive the Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s award, named after one of the country’s sporting icons Sir Donald Bradman.
The Carcoar native joined the likes of Mark Taylor, Cadel Evans, Cathy Freeman and Sally Pearson in winning the annual award presented to the Australian athlete or team who is considered to have had the capacity to most inspire the nation.
And inspire Fearnley does.
At this year’s Commonwealth Games as he raced in Australian colours for the final time, he not only won men’s marathon gold and carried the flag into Carrara Stadium for the closing ceremony, but he spoke about promoting the Paralympic community.
Again in his acceptance speech for The Don Award, Fearnley’s words were inspirational.
“I’ve heard the stories of our Paralympic forebears who speak about losing friends, who felt too much shame in their experience with disability in our own community. There was too much shame, and there wasn’t enough hope,” Fearnley said.
“So our sport was born out of that hope.
“Hope that somebody can be judged by substance, not image. That the difference that we each hold can be celebrated and not used to be segregated. Through the medium of our sport, this is what that movement represents. Hope.
“Hope that if sport can adjust to include those with disabilities, maybe community can follow. And when our community is shifting to this idea of perfection, our movement has greater importance than ever.”
Spinetingling…— Sport Aus HallofFame (@SportAusHoF) October 11, 2018
If you see only one thing from us this year, make it Kurt Fearnley's #TheDon Award acceptance speech. 👏😢
Watch the full speech here ▶️ https://t.co/PM65GjNAXt#SAHOF#HALLofFAME@AthsAust@CommGamesAUS@AUSParalympics@ParaAthletics@sportaustraliapic.twitter.com/518cN3zDK4
Typically, Fearnley played down his efforts in his acceptance speech.
Just like joked about using his ‘ugly mug’ to help champion the disability community when he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia as part of the Queen’s Birthday honours in June.
“I grew up with an understanding about The Don, and it was as much about integrity and humility as it was about excellence in sport,” Fearnley said.
“I recognise tonight that I am the first within our Paralympic movement to hold up this prestigious award. I have no intention of self-congratulation. I have to point behind me, to the generation of proud men and women with disability, who allowed me to become the person and athlete that you see fit to receive this award.
“I am honoured to receive this recognition and I am honoured by The Don Award and I will do my best to be worthy of it.”
Do you want more Orange news?
Receive our free newsletter delivered to your inbox every morning, as well as breaking news alerts. Sign up here