21 November 2018


Here I am at the 2018 WAIS Awards as part of the athlete panel with another recently retired athlete, Olympian Steve Bird.

I'm not sure how long the Q&A felt for those of you who went, but for me up on stage it flew by! If I could kick, I would be kicking myself (sorry, paraplegic joke!) because I missed out on such a great opportunity to express a few things to my fellow female athletes!

Here is what I should have said when asked about my method of deciding to retire:

Having to consider retirement is inevitable as an athlete because you cannot compete forever. We aren't superheroes. Sometimes we stop being good enough for selection, sometimes we get injured beyond repair, or sometimes we fall out of love with the sport. None of those things happened to me. I was just "up the duff".

Rio 2016 would have been my 3rd Paralympics. Sadly my team didn't qualify so my "post-Rio" plans became my "instead of Rio" plans. Then when a certain someone was asked in an interview if anyone on the Gliders would now retire, that person said I would because I was having a baby. Not only is my womb occupancy my business, but don't assume females need to retire from sport to have babies!

So almost a year later when my daughter Chloe was finally born in February 2017 (yep, do the math folks!), I was determined to prove that person wrong and 10 weeks later I played my first game as a mummy athlete in the WNWBL.

Female athletes shouldn't have to retire to become mothers. We are strong, kick ass human beings! If I can push a 3.6kg object with a 36.5cm circumference out my hoohaa with no drugs, then I can organise a few extra things in my day to make being a mummy athlete possible. (Side note: the 'no drugs' thing was because I couldn't actually feel my contractions. Para perk!)

I managed to keep focused on being an athlete in amongst all the glorious (cuddles!) and not so glorious (poonamis) aspects of being a first time mum. With a FIFO husband away for weeks at a time and no parents living in WA, I relied on a lot of random people to help me with Chloe while I was training. Replacing a few boob feeds with bottles of expressed milk meant I could handball Chloe to anyone wanting a court side cuddle (as long as they did the odd nappy change too).

Chloe also travelled interstate and overseas numerous times with the Gliders and Red Dust Heelers, where she was passed around the staff and my teammates (if hubby wasn't there too) so I could continue being the athlete I wanted to be. Being a mum is hard. Being an athlete is hard. But when you have goals to kick, you do whatever you have to do.

After a year on maternity leave I returned to casual work and shortly after that the WAIS Wheelchair Basketball program was created, which is amazing! I wish it was created 5 years ago!

So suddenly my world was a mix of super early wake ups, late nights, day care drop offs, training sessions, work, and all things mum like toddler playgroups & swimming lessons, and researching ways to hide veggies in food. I eventually started to feel like I was burning the candle at both ends whilst holding a Zippo lighter in between. But I soldiered on because there was a World Championships to train for!

I was tired. All. The. Time. Not to mention moody AF! I knew I was still a good mum, but deep inside I wanted to be a great mum. Chloe didn't deserve a melted candle mum. My daughter deserves an Optus Stadium mum.

So over several appointments with Jo the WAIS sports psych, we started chatting about possible retirement and how I can make sure I can come to a decision and be 100% happy with it. I created lists of why I wanted to keep playing basketball and why I wanted to retire from elite sport. I still loved playing basketball for Australia and I certainly wasn't that broken yet. There is so much fun to be had and so much honour playing in the yellow and green. I also worried a heck of a lot about how much I would disappoint certain people like my husband, my parents, my coaches, my teammates if I stopped playing.

However, the other list was almost double in length. It was filled with my love for my family and all the things we could do without having the training commitments and the financial burdens of being an elite athlete (because if you think female athletes don't get paid enough, try being a female AND disabled athlete!). I needed more energy in my day to be the mum I wanted to be for my daughter and that point trumped everything else. And if you can't put in the training, then you shouldn't be on the National squad.

So in May 2018 I finally made the decision to retire from the National team, and in August 2018, at the World Championships in Germany, I played my 211th and last game of wheelchair basketball for Australia, with my family watching from the sidelines. You would think holding in a secret retirement would have been distracting to me but I had enough experience under my belt that I didn't let that impact me. But as soon as that final buzzer sounded, the dam of emotions broke and I cried at the knowledge that my 13 year career with the Gliders was over. But as a friend recently reminded me: "don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." A Dr Zeus quote apparently, but completely true nonetheless.

It is totally possible for female athletes to be mummies at the same time. There are plenty of us out there. I am not going to pretend to be the only one. As long as our NSO's and SSO's continue to support us (like BA and WAIS did for me) then Australian sport shouldn't be losing amazing athletes to retirement for motherhood goals.

I was a mummy athlete for 18 months, and if I was dealt a different hand of cards I probably could have gone on a lot longer (winning Powerball would help!). But my circumstances are what they are and I am happy with the choices I've made.

I can't wait to be that mum cheering her kids on from the side line, acting like she knows all the rules.

29 September 2012

My furry baby: Taj

Reading over last weeks blog about the post-paralympic haze I thought I would clarify something about my dog Taj the "special needs dog" I mentioned. My dog HAS special needs. He isn't an assistant dog that the phrase 'special needs dog' kind of implies. I probably should have written that a bit better. My dog wouldn't have passed his assistant dog test (he will fetch for you, but getting the object back from him is the real task!).

When Taj was small enough, his fave place to sleep was underneith me!
Just before Taj turned one (2 February 2012) he was a very sick puppy. It was also just after Lee and I came back from our honeymoon so we thought at first maybe it was something that had happend at the kennel he stayed at for the two weeks we were away. Basically he was throwing up all the time, lost all his energy and happiness. It was hard to see your puppy go from a happy, crazy, cheeky little thing to a sad puppy who didn't even have the energy to wag his tail when he saw you coming.

He spent many long days at the Vet where we would drop him off in the morning and pick him up at night just so he could be on a drip and get some fluids/nutrience. He also had a whole range of different tests and scans done so would come home with different patches of hair missing where they shaved his hair to get closer to him.

No happiness in that face. Bright bandage where his drip was.
He spent a lot of time lying on the cold tiles in the bathroom, so that's where I moved his water bowl.
After all those scans and tests he was eventually diagnosed with having arrhythmia. His heart was beating irregulary. Basically rather than having the normal tha-thump tha-thump heart beat, every now and then his heart would go tha-tha-tha-tha-thump. His heart was racing without him needing to do anything! We originally thought maybe he had eaten something non-biodegradable and it was somehow stuck, hence the vomiting everytime he ate or drunk. It would have involved one expensive but fairy simple proceedure to cut it out of him.

Arrhythmia was a very scary diagnosis for us. I remember when Lee called me to tell me the news about Taj's diagnosis. It was after I had just finished an exam at uni and I was in my car still parked in the carpark with the tears streaming down my face. If anyone saw me they probably thought I had just flunked an exam. My furry black baby has a heart defect! This would be something we would have to deal with for the rest of his life. Taj would spend the rest of his life with:
  • Various tablets at various times during the day. We actually bought one of those weekly medication storage things that have morning, noon and evening compartments so we could sort out which tablets were once a day, twice a day or three times a day and at the correct dosage. We eventually bought another one so I only had to sit there with a pill cutter once every two weeks. Some tablets had to be hidden in small cubes of dog roll and dinner tablets are hidden in his can food (see below about his diet).
  • No exercise at all. His heart was already racing so if we were to take him for a run (which Lee did quite often beforehand) then the chances of Taj having a heart attack and dying on us was very high. We were also told that we may even just come home one day with him not with us anymore. The thought of him having a heart attack outside alone was very upsetting to me. Try telling a puppy to not run around! Those of you who have owned dogs will know the little 'spazzes' they have when all of a sudden they get in the mood of running around the house. In my case it involves 'drifting' on the floor boards and slamming (all 30kg) into the walls. He likes to use the carpeted hallway to stop safely - kind of like a 'runaway truck ramp' on the side of a hilly road.
  • A special prescription diet. Gone are the days of ducking down to City Farmers to get a bag of biscuits. He is now on a strict diet of portion controlled low salt, high good-for-your-heart-stuff from Royal Canin. With no exercise we don't want him to get fat so each day he has 129g of Royal Canin cardiac dry biscuits and 1.5 cans of Royal Canin cardic canned food. About every month and a half I will spend an hour with the electric scales and fill about 40-50 plastic snap lock bags with 129 grams of biscuit.
  • Regular trips to the vet. A big thank you to the girls and guys of Kingsway Veterinary Centre and Perth Vet Specialist who know Taj very well. I should mention just how glad Lee and I are that we took out Pet Insurance as soon as he was 8 weeks old (the earliest you can get insurance). Vet appointments aren't cheap. Vet appointments plus EEG's, ultrasounds, blood tests, hospitalisation, special diet, prescription medication = 1000's and 1000's of $$. Pet Insurance has been wonderful!
This is something that he has probably had since birth but for some reason never came to light til just before he turned 1. It isn't genetic, there is nothing wrong with the breeding. He has an impecable pedigree. It is just one of those unfortunate things that happen to people (or animals).

Now a days Taj is a happy and very cheeky dog. If I am on the computer and he gets bored and wants a cuddle he will jump up and squirm his way onto my lap (just his top half, he is way too big to be a lap dog). You can tell when he has something he shouldn't when he tries to sneak past you but as soon as you look up or say 'hey!' he bolts down the hallway where you have to chase him and try sheppard him into a corner. He loves his Kong toys, especially the type that you put the treats inside and he has to roll them around to get them out. He doesn't even need the treats inside (he isn't allowed many treats anyway). He will play with them for hours without anything in them! We have had to throw out many toys (anything soft, or rope-like) because he has chewed them to tiny pieces. He is a bit of a Marley :-)

The duck and the basketball are no longer around.
The red Kong toys have lasted!
Over the last few months the Vet has been weening him off various tablets to see what we can get away with. His heart is beating at a fairly regular pace which is the best news. I don't think he will get off tablets entirely but at the moment he is no longer on the annoying tablet that had to be given to him 1 hour before food (which meant getting up extra early and getting home in time so he isn't being fed dinner at an unreasonable hour) and he is no longer on the one that was needed 3 times a day. He is currently on 1 tablet with breakfast and 2 and 1/4 tablets with his dinner.

We still aren't taking him on walks but he is a happy dog. When the weather becomes better and consistant we will start taking him back out in the world of different smells. Definitely no running with Lee but short slow walks are fine. Will have to take that 10m lead out somewhere :-)


22 September 2012


So today I am having some 'me time' (dress code: pajama's). During this time I mucked around with Photoshop and gave the blog a new look and new name. The > mathamatically means 'greater than'.. so basically the name of this blog is now 'The journey is greater than the destination'. I won't have to keep changing the name every 4 years now depending on which Paralympics I am training for.

Facebook timeline cover photo :-)

21 September 2012

Post-Paralympic haze

Well it has been just over a week since arriving back in Australia so I thought I would write about the weird sensation paralympians feel after the end of a Paralympics. Some people call it post-paralympic depression but I personally feel that the word 'depression' is used in everyday conversation too lightly especially when you find out the medical definition of it. So I am going to call it a post-paralympic haze. (Post script - I'm not the only one to call it a haze - some chick called Meghan Montgomery called it that too!)

It isn't jet lag aka desynchronosis (found that fancy pants word on Wikipedia!). It is the weird feeling athletes get once they have come home from the Paralympics and have to try fit back into the world they left behind. For me I left behind the 'real world' on August 14th, over a month ago. For a whole month I have been told what time to have breakfast, lunch and dinner, what clothes I have to wear, and whether I am allowed out in my spare time. I haven't had to prepare any of my meals, load/unload a washing machine, make my bed, pick up soggy towels from the bathroom floor, drive a car or look after any dependants (in my case a special needs dog).

When I got home one of the first things I did was open the stack of mail I had waiting for me and then pay the household bills that were due while I was away. Nothing like a big smack in the face from 'the Real World'. If you take out the money I spent on gifts for myself or others, there really wasn't any need to spend money when I was away. All your basic needs are provided to you. Food is prepared for you and waiting for you, you just need to choose what you want. And there is tea and coffee available. It's not always the best coffee but hey, it's there. Free.

Speaking of bills, getting back into the routine of getting up early and going to work was hard! But the girls at work definitely made it worth while with the working day ending early so we could fit in time for a little celebration party at the end of the day! :-)

2008's bronze came too - work wanted to meet the whole family :-)

Unfortunately being a paralympian is not a job. It is a hobby you work really hard at with rewards of free(ish) travel and accommodation around Australia and the world, friendship and camaraderie, and a few monetary training/equipment/sporting grants every now and then. Unless something fantastic happens in the future in terms of awareness and massive sponsorship, being an athlete with a disability in Australia doesn't replace the need for a job/income. It would be great if we could live off major sponsership deals like some Australian and international sport stars do, but that idea is just a fantasy at this moment in time. I am proud that I have been able to somehow manage work, uni and basketball (and social life!). I have one unit to go and so soon I will graduate uni with a double degree and I am already making a name for myself in the legal profession. Sport could end suddenly for whatever reason at any time (voluntary and involuntary). If that time ever comes, then I have something amazing to fall back on.

Anyway, getting back to the haze: driving my car for the first time was weird. It doesn't last long, but there was a short amount of time where I felt like a teenager who has just passed their test and driving on P's and alone for the first time. Getting used to the feel of the stearing wheel in my hands and the brake and accellerater. In Arnhem you just walked/pushed everywhere. In Cardiff and London you wheeled up onto a bus and the driver drove you where you needed to go.

A big part of the haze is the fact that I have time alone. 'Me time' as I like to call it. When you're away with a team 'me time' is very rare. There were a few times when I felt a bit tired and a little cranky, but the schedule taped to my door says I have a training session, followed by recovery, then lunch, then a team meeting, then a hudl/video session in one of the smaller Glider groups. Sometimes all I wanted is to curl up in my bed with the sheets over my head but I couldn't. Now I'm back home and the concept of a day by myself without having to listen to anyone breath or eat crunchy yoghurt is completely reasonable and possible. Hashtag athlete problems!

Things I don't miss about the paralympics:
  • Getting felt up by security every time I get back from training, a game, or a visit to Westfield.
  • The accreditation dangling around my neck (especially when it blows around dramatically when pushing through a massive wind tunnel between buildings).
  • The question "do you have a pin??" from people who don't even attempt a semi-decent conversation or act of kindness before asking that question!
  • Single sized beds. I love my king sized bed (hubby to snuggle included!).
Ever since returning home I have had alot of people who know I went to the Paralympics but don't know the result ask me how I went. I would say 'I got a silver medal' and they would cheer and say how proud they are and how wonderful it is. I would reply with a nice smile and thank them for their kind words. It's hard though. I am a proud paralympian and I am proud to have a paralympic medal. But wearing a silver medal from competing in a team sport means we lost our last game. We lost the gold medal and got the silver medal instead. Unlike swimmers or runners who genuinely win silver by coming second in their race. I read Lisa Chaffey's blog and she wrote about her Athens experience:

"In a team sport, winning a silver means you lost the gold medal game. You go home with a shiny medal, of which you will eventually be proud, but you lost your last game. It's a hard position to be in. It took me a few months after Athens to start saying that I won the silver medal, and not that I had lost the gold."

It is probably another part of this post-paralympic haze that I have been talking about :-)

If you are in Perth, Western Australia and want to come say hi to me and the other WA Paralympians then come to the Northbridge Plaza between 12 and 2.30pm on Friday 28th of September.
Now that the London Paralympics are over I am going to have to change this blog name and the countdown. I googled the Rio Paralympics and apparently that is starting on September 7th 2016. Wow that is such a long way away! I'm going to be 30!! I have changed so much since Beijing (was single in Beijing, now I'm married!) I can't imagine what I am going to be like in Rio. Kids? Full time job? Or will I have a major sponser and be a full time athlete?? Who knows!? The journey is what makes the destination such a success.  Hmmm..  maybe I should name this blog 'The Journey'. That way I wont have to keep changing the name every 4 years. Your suggestions would be much appreciative! Facebook or Tweet me!

Now that my London Paralympic journey is over, I'm not sure how often I will write blogs. But if anything awesome does happen in my life then I will hopefully have some spare time to tell you about it :-)

Good luck to my Husband and Dean who are competing in Tough Mudder tomorrow in Sydney! They have raised $750 for Wheelchair Sports WA which is a great effort for their first fundraising event! If you want to sneak in a donation then head to their Everyday Hero webpage! Wheelchair Sports WA have seen alot of young kids grow into Paralympic medal winning elite athletes (including myself, Justin Eveson and Shaun Norris) and it is fundraising and donations from the public that have helped them do it. Every bit counts!

Until next time!

15 September 2012

Final days in London

The Australian Paralympic team left London on the 11th of September. Here are a few photos from my last days in London:

On the tube - not all stations were accessible. Thankfully I had Lee and Jon with me to help me up and down the stairs!
Harry Potter was here!
London Eye
What time is it?
the Abbey - Kate and Will were here!
Couldn't get to Buckingham Palace (closed due to welcome home parade) so I had my photo taken with a photo of it instead!
In a London Eye pod!
Paddington Bear!
Our flight home was on a Qantas chartered flight to Sydney via bangkok. Business class is usually reserved for gold medalists but this time they also gave business seats to those of us who can't walk or weight bare (basically those of us who can't get off our bums to relieve pressure).

It was great! There are a few moments in life where being a complete paraplegic has it's benefits. The food was fantastic! I chose the duck option for both dinners - duck leg with veges for one dinner, then a duck curry with rice for the other dinner. For the breakfasts I had french toast with nutella and then toasted muslie with an apple danish. It was awesome to be able to lie completely flat when trying to sleep, rather than sleeping sitting up with your shoulders scrunched to not touch the person sitting next to you. I definitely felt alot better after 30 hours of travel this time compared to going there. Hmmm.. maybe if Basketball Australia had a bigger budget and we could travel business all the time! Happy athletes = better recovery = better performance on court! (my opinion anyway, I don't have a research study to quote/reference to back that one up)

So much leg room!
Horizontal is so much better!
Kudos to the Qantas staff who spent alot of their time pushing the isle wheelchair to and from the toilets. Also many thanks to the APC staff who gave massages in our seats during the stop over in Bangkok.

In Sydney, there was a small welcome home reception after we cleared customs. I missed half of it because of the amount of time it (understandably) took to get everyone with a wheelchair off the plane. The minister of sport and Tony Abbott were there and Ice House sang Heroes to us again :-) Afterwards, we took the bus to the domestic terminal, had about an hour in Qantas Club (breakfast being pancakes and toast!) and then finally boarded my last flight to Perth.

After too many hours to count I finally got home to a very excited Taj :-)

The "oof!" you can hear is me when Taj jumped up on me and the hand my camera was in gave me an upper cut!