‘I know that if I’d been born with two complete legs, I’d never have had the opportunity to be a Paralympian, and I would never, ever, have got to stand on the world stage as a winner. What some might call a disadvantage was in fact, my greatest advantage’. Don Elgin
Don Elgin has penned these words at the end of his story stating a truth that for many is simply how it is. It sums up the dedication, courage and determination not to let what life has dished out, for whatever reason, hold them back from achieving their dreams.
Born into an average Australian family he was the third child of Don and Rosie Elgin, but his birth was anything but normal. He was the victim of what is now known as Amniotic Band Theory. He was born ‘missing half a left leg, his fingers were half-formed and webbed together’ and there were a few other things that proved to be a challenge.
But in so many ways he was lucky to be born into a family that did not consider he was any different to the other children and he was always encouraged to get on and do it. He was a totally shocked to discover he was considered as ‘disabled’, as he considered he was equally as good as any other person, artificial leg or not!
Starting school was a challenge, facing endless surgery as a young child was also challenging and painful, he managed to get into the same amount of trouble as his older brother Jason and generally did not enjoy going to school. He was almost expelled for his ‘gambling’ strategies at High School, created under the guise of learning to understand mathematics.
He also loved sport; enjoyed playing sport and never let the fact that he had an artificial leg impact on what he considered living his life.
He started to take his sport seriously as a teenager, undertaking a training regime around the town of Tocumwal. To become a competitive swimmer was the focus initially and served to introduce him to the world of professional and semi -professional sport. It also whetted his appetite to one day represent Australia at the Paralympic Games – a goal he held fixed firmly in his sights. He won the right to go to Berlin with the Australian team to compete in the German Nationals in Track and Field and the rest is medal history.
He learned much from this first overseas experience; much about life, about competing and so very much about the pride that comes from stepping up on that podium and receiving that hard won medal.
In this inspiring, entertaining, educational, humorous reflection on a life well lived so far, Don Elgin pays a huge tribute to the people who were there and helped him along the way; to his family, to the townspeople of Tocumwal, who supported his endless fundraising initiatives, to the athletes who willing gave of their knowledge and also mentored him as a young, vulnerable competitor.
He does not hold back on the reality that to be a disabled athlete, to compete at any level, whether it be the local school sports, national competitions or the gruelling world of the elite sportsman, it takes grit, and determination, but far more importantly guts, to overcome the odds they face as daily challenges in their lives.
|Author||Don Elgin with Kevin Moloney|