FITTER, stronger, faster, focused – if Kurt Fearnley was not already a big threat in the world of wheelchair racing, the motivation of succeeding at his final Paralympic Games will make him an even more formidable foe.
After making his Games debut in Sydney in 2000, plus attending the Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and London (2012) Paralympics, Fearnley announced this year’s event in Rio would be his last at this level.
The Carcoar native will contest the men’s T54 5,000 metres, 1500m and 4x400m relay on the track, as well as his pet event the marathon.
He will be looking to add to his three gold, six silver and two bronze Paralympic medals. The desire for the CSU graduate to succeed has motivated him to undergo a brutal training regime.
“I’ve never gone into a race without knowing I’ve got to give it a really good crack,”Kurt Fearnley
“I’ve never gone into a race without knowing I’ve got to give it a really good crack,” 35-year-old Fearnley said.
“But these past six months I’ve never trained harder. It’s been uncompromising and it has been hard, especially with a young family.
“[I am] fitter, stronger, faster and more focused than I’ve ever been before for a decade or more.”
Prior to Thursday’s (AEST) opening ceremony, Fearnley joined Daniela Di Toro in addressing Australia’s Paralympic team. The pair are co-captains of the contingent which features 89 debutants.
"My reinforcement from me, and I'm sure Dani would be the same, was: ‘You're here, you've justified every single hurdle so far – you've nailed it’,” Fearnley said of his advice to the first-timers.
"At the end of the day, when I'm looking at a 14, 15-year-old kid, I don't give a [damn] what they bring home. I hope it's a gold because that gold is just awesome. I hope it's a medal because that moment is incredible.
“You want them to feel comfortable and happy and regardless of the result, awesome."
Fearnley’s push for personal success will begin at 7.04am (AEST) in the 5,000m heats.
One of his three Paralympic gold medals came at this event when he won over the distance at Athens, while Fearnley snared 5,000m silver at both Beijing and London.
He will race in the first heat and attempt to qualify for the final (11.15pm Sunday, AEST).
Fearnley’s 1,500m heat is on September 13 at 7.48am, the 4x400m heat on September 17 at 1.25am and the marathon will get underway on September 19 at 1.30am.