adn challenge strapline

True grit

Damn those before work training sessions the grievously keen member of your team keeps organising. 

Damn that promise you made to yourself to train after work yesterday. And the day before that...

Gosh it’s tough conquering life, work and an hour a week of team training, isn’t it? Here’s what some other athletes have had to conquer:

Keiren Perkins crashed through a plate glass window at home in Brisbane at the age of nine and severely injured his calf muscle. Swimming was recommended as part of his rehab. Perkins kept swimming. He won two Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996 in the 1500-metre freestyle, and a silver medal in 2000.

Ethiopean, Haile Gebrselassie, was one of ten children from an impoverished Ethiopian village. His early ‘training’ was running 20km to school and back on a dirt track every day. He went on to win two Olympic gold medals and four World Championship titles in the 10,000 metre track event.


US Diver, Greg Louganis, was diagnosed with HIV a few months before the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He went to Seoul nonetheless and won two gold medals for diving at those Games. 

American kayaker, Cliff Meidl, suffered severe burns, the loss of two toes and the near-loss of his leg in a construction accident when he was 20. 15 surgical procedures in five years followed. He spent more than six years on crutches. Then he represented the US at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.


UK weightlifter, Monique Newton, was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was child. She had both chemo and radiotherapy. Then, as a teenager, she was walloped by depression. She tried to commit suicide at 15. At 17, she decided her life had to change and she went internet searching for obscure sports. She found powerlifting. By mid 2014, she had become a three-time world powerlifting champion and had broken more than 45 British and European records. At 22.


Young Irish gymnast, Kieran Behan ended up in a wheelchair at the age of ten after an operation to remove a tumour in his leg. Just one year, he went back to training. Then he fell off the high bar during training and suffered a head injury - which put him back into a wheelchair again. He had to relearn simple skills like sitting up and moving his head and doctors didn't expect he would ever walk again. Three years later, he was training. In 2012, he became the second Irish gymnast to qualify for the Olympics. In the European Games in June this year, he missed out on the bronze medal by .144 of a point. 

Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani and Sarah Attar competed in the London Olympics. Big deal? You bet. They come from Saudi Arabia – a country that had banned its women and girls from playing sports. They are the first two Saudi women ever to compete in the Olympics, Shahrkhani in judo and Attar in track. Qatar and Brunei also sent women to the Olympics for the first time.

  • Sarah Attar finished last and more than a half-minute slower than her nearest competitor in her 800m heat. She was given a standing ovation as she crossed the finish line. That’s what the Olympic Games are meant to be about. 
  • When Shahrkhani was defeated, Saudi Arabia’s Islamic clerics censured her, saying that she had dishonored herself by fighting in front of men, including the referee and judges.

Below is the story of Aarin Wheelz Fotheringham. He was born with spina bifida and is out to prove that his wheelchair isn’t limiting. Fotheringham reckons, “They’re just wheels stuck to my butt. How can that not be fun?!”

He became the first person to successfully complete a backflip in a wheelchair at 14 and a double backflip at 18. Fotheringham joined the Nitro Circus Live Tour in 2010. Now he travels the world doing his signature flips off 17 metre ramps.

Jeremy McGhee is a surfer and rider from California who broke his back in a motorbike accident in 2001 and was left paralysed from the waist down. His passion for sport remained and he began the Drop In Project.

The Drop In Project is a bucket list of seemingly impossible tasks that McGhee and his mates have dreamed up. The idea is to inspire everyone to let go of what is holding you back. Here are a few items: diving with Great White sharks, mountain biking through the Bolivian rainforest, surfing Indo, and heli-skiing in Alaska – all as a paraplegic athlete.

McGhee has ticked off his first challenge – climbing California’s Bloody Couloir and riding down it. It’s 833 metres long with a 50 degree pitch. And that has become a TEDX story: