1. What was it like growing up without a leg?
There are some definite positives that go along with having 1.75 legs. For example, as I grew up I realised that I only needed to get one leg waxed, apply sunscreen to one side, and that mosquitoes aren’t fans of carbon fibre. On a serious note, I was extremely fortunate in that I had an amazing group of friends who knew me as Han – as opposed to the girl with one leg. Also, if I wanted to do something – whether it be start a swimming career and get up at 4:12am or cycle around Europe for three months – the knowledge that I had the support and love from my family has been, and is, priceless.
2. Did you have any setbacks when you where young?
I can remember coming home from numerous school sport competitions, from athletics to cross-country, and bawling my eyes out into my mum’s shoulder because I had come last again. While a friend assures my I was the fastest runner in Grade 1, the higher end of primary school saw a lot of competitor ribbons. It was tough to deal with at the time (I do have a natural competitive streak) but as I grew up and started to specialise in swimming, I realised that this sport was my forte; I could leave the winning of other sports to my fellow classmates.
3. Where you self-conscious of having one leg?
Definitely. It was probably around the age of eight or so that I realised I was a little different from my friends – apparently not everyone has a freckle in the middle of their foot (an easy misconception to have if you don’t have another to compare with!). When summer rolled around and we were all in t-shirts and shorts, I would naturally attract a lot of stares from other kids. However, when I began to understand a little bit more about the Paralympics and the world of disability sport, I understood that I wasn’t alone and that there were other people out there like me. Also, having a mentor definitely helped and it was Donnie who taught me to become less self-conscious and proudly walk down the street in my t-shirt and shorts.
4. What were your initial goals?
When I was growing up, not only did I want to go the Paralympics, I wanted to work at NASA, own my own florist and bakery, become a vet, and be a fireman. Just a few ambitions.
5. Have they changed?
My ambitions have evolved – I realised that I can’t handle the sight of blood (cross off the vet), I can only run if Jonny Depp is 100m away (cross off the fireman), my self-control around baked goods isn’t fantastic (cross-off the bakery), and I am passionate about sport. So now my goals revolve around the 2018 UCI Road World Cycling Championships, with lots of stepping-stone goals along the way.
6. What or who have you been inspired by along your journey?
My inspiration has come from so many sources – from my family, especially my super-hero mum, my mentor Donnie, my coaches, teammates, friends, as well as finding inspiration inside myself. I believe that life is a constant learning experience, so when anyone comes into my life, I am always keen to learn what I can from them and draw inspiration along the way.
7. Do you have different prostheses for different purposes?
I think at the moment I almost have a different leg for every day of the week! I have my everyday walking leg. It is absolutely critical to have a leg that fits correctly. I also have a spare walking leg, a second spare walking leg, my cycling leg, a back-up cycling leg, a swimming leg and a swim-teaching leg. I almost need a whole wardrobe just for my legs… On my bucket list is a high-heel leg, which is essentially a fancy foot that has a height adjustment mechanism. A pair of killer red heels would go down quite nicely!
8. Are you doing or have you tried anything new?
I recently got back from Europe and had an absolute blast giving new things a go – these ranged from eating escargot to climbing up snow-capped mountains. Everyday took me out of my comfort zone, challenged me in new ways – especially in non-English speaking countries, and I was lucky enough to cycle across Italy, France, Spain and the UK. Going away just reaffirmed my passion for the outdoors and trying something new everyday – if you don’t constantly push the barriers, you aren’t going to discover your own potential and how high you can go.
9. Has your amputation changed the direction of your life?
Having one leg has meant being able to represent my country at two Paralympic Games and aim for a third. I am not a big ‘what if’ person, so I really don’t know what my life would be like if I had two legs. I believe it is the attitude and choices you adapt to all the challenges that life throws at you. Because I have made the most of the opportunities that have been given to me, worked and trained bloody hard towards the goals I set myself, I have been blessed to travel the world in a sport I love, while representing Australia. Just as importantly, if not more, I have also met some amazing people that have enriched my life and shared some awesome experiences with me.
10. What are the things you enjoy doing most now?
For me, getting out on my bike is absolute freedom. I absolutely love it. It is me, my bike, the wind in my hair, beautiful scenery, and some great coffee stops. I also love spending time with family over a home-cooked meal, going out for breakfast with friends, and reading a really good book. Lastly, I get the biggest buzz when I go out for a public speaking gig and connect with my audience. Seeing that glitter in a person’s eye when they realise that if they do set their goals properly, work hard, then great things can happen.