Sarah Walsh was only 18-months-old when her parents made the decision to have her right leg amputated.
She was born with fibular hemimelia, a condition that saw her born without her fibula and a small foot.
But within days of her operation, Walsh showed she was a Paralympian of the future – running on her new prosthetic leg within a week of it being fitted.
The St John Bosco College, Engadine student will compete in the long jump in her first Paralympic Games, which start in Rio today.
Walsh posted a B-qualifier of 4.96 metres at the nationals in Sydney in April to earn her place on the Australian track and field team.
The 18-year-old was told of her official selection in early August. And she will take her best form with her to Rio after posting a personal best jump of 5.02m at a training camp on the Gold Coast under the watchful eye of coach Brett Robinson.
Hers is an incredible story.
After being encouraged to race in school athletics carnival events, Walsh was given her first running blade at age 12. From there, the Sutherland Athletics Club member has dedicated much of her life to realising her dream of competing on the world stage.
Walsh said her aim was to at least equal her sixth-placed finish from last year’s world championships in Doha and gain enough experience to help her succeed at future Paralympics.
“I’ve always known that I wanted to compete on the world stage but probably since London, Rio was definitely a goal for me,” she said.
“Rio is just going to be more of an experience for me more than anything else. Then Tokyo and all Paralympics after that are going to be the ones that I’ll be aiming to win medals at. Every training session that I’ve done since I started athletics when I was nine, have sort of been leading up to this. I just started through school and then just kept at it. Then if I wanted to take it a bit more seriously I had to join a club. And then I got my running blade and it all took off there.”
Walsh has also begun working with Limbs for Life, an organisation that supports amputees and their families throughout Australia.
Walsh told the Leader she was proud to be in a position to help others.
“I’ve always just lived my life how I wanted to live it,” she said.
“I haven’t done anything different. I’ve started to realise now I’m a bit older that that’s having an impact on people around me. Their families are going through what my family went through back when I had my leg amputated. We didn’t really have that kind of support. So it’s been really great to give something back.”
Walsh has also designed a t-shirt, with the slogan ‘Dare to Stare’, with all profits going back to Limbs for Life.
You can buy one of Sarah’s t-shirts here.