Recently I had the opportunity to do an interview with Katie Kelly, an athlete I admire greatly. We talked for about two hours about our mutual love of sport, triathlon, and our passion to make sport accessible to every person, particularly the younger generations.
Katie and myself both believe that every person deserves to experience the joy of movement and sport without a fear of judgement. Her particular focus is removing the fear of judgement due to a disability, and making sport more accessible for children experiencing disability. She will achieve this through the foundation she is launching in the near future that will work to equip local sporting groups with relevant advice and resources that will mean that no one will be turned away from sport.
You can imagine the mountain of matieral I walked away from this interview with. My head was literally spinning I had so many angles to take.
One thing I promised to Katie was that I would do my best to tell her story the way she wanted it told.
The afternoon of the interview, I received a message from Katie featuring a piece her 13 year old niece Eliza had prepared for a young writer’s competition. The topic was ‘an inspirational person.’ Katie was so proud of her, and the piece that Eliza had prepared detailing Katie’s condition is so touching and insightful that I just had to feature it and give Eliza the credit that she is so richly due.
As this story goes live, Katie will be on her way to Iseo, Italy to compete in her fourth World Paratriathlon Event. She has won her previous three events and is gunning for a spot in the Rio Paralympics in 2016, where Paratriathlon will debut.
Good luck KK, I’ll be eagerly tracking your progress on Saturday!
By Eliza Hibberd, Brigidine College
Imagine waking up one day to total darkness…..
This is what will happen to my Aunty Katie. She has a disability called Usher Syndrome. Although her sight will not disappear overnight; it will gradually get worse and worse until it is gone. What would you do with your life between now and that day? Would you sit around and wait? Or would you go out and do something that matters?
My Aunty Katie, is such an inspiration to me because she is a true champion. She is ranked twelfth in the world and is hoping to make it to the 2016 Paralympics in Rio for the para-triathlon. During a para-triathlon Katie is tethered to her guide in the swim and run and rides a tandem bike in the cycle leg. Katie has a fundraising campaign and has already raised $20,000 to buy the custom-made tandem bike she needs for her races! She trains really hard every day in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport.
Usher Syndrome (Ushers) is a rare genetic condition whereby you lose your hearing and sight over a long period of time – there are three types. Katie has type two, which causes you to have moderate to severe hearing loss at birth. Type two eye sight loss tends to progress slowly and is normally not noticed until teenage years or early to mid-twenties. Night blindness develops during puberty and by mid-adulthood the person is usually ‘legally blind’. There is currently no cure for Ushers.
Going through school was hard for Katie because she had to try a lot harder to concentrate than all the other kids, which she says was frustrating. She also remembers having a low self-esteem because she had to wear hearing aids. Katie recalls her sight deteriorating when she was 25 years of age; “I would go out with friends and found myself bumping into things a lot”. So she decided to see an Ophthalmologist who diagnosed her with Ushers. She was very shocked to have it because, she said, “I had gone all through life always being identified as ‘the girl with hearing loss’ and then to find out I had sight loss as well was very disheartening for me”.
Aunty Katie says that having Ushers has added to her life more than it has hindered. This is why she is an inspiration because she says, “having Ushers has given me amazing opportunities”; these include, working as the Media Manager for the Deaflympics. Because Katie is now ‘legally blind’ she is able to compete in the Paralympics which is a once in a lifetime opportunity. “My parents were great role models for me” Katie explained. She said they taught her that hard work is the best way to achieve what you want to achieve.
My Aunty Katie is an extremely inspirational person because she has a rare disability that will make her go blind but she does not let it get her down. Katie is also an inspiration because she gets herself involved and makes the most of every situation – she does things that matter! Katie teaches us to ‘look’ forward to the future and make the most of each day.
You can follow Katie’s journey to Rio via her facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/KatieKellyRio16?fref=ts),
Twitter @katiek23 or on