Well 2016 has come and gone with some amazing highs and some really sad lows. I never thought that a year could be such a roller coaster. But life is funny like that, you never really know what is around the next corner in our ever changing lives. But it is how we end up dealing with those changes and challenges that make us who we are each year.
My year started out on a very sad note with the passing of my father. Yes we knew that it was probably his last year and that is why I spent last Christmas with him and my family in Canada. But are we ever really prepared to lose a parent, no matter how old or sick they may be? But I am lucky that I got to spend his last 4 days on this earth with him and was able to tell him how much I loved him and that I was lucky to have him for a father because he helped shaped the person I have become. I think the hardest thing is then leaving your family to continue on this journey we call life.
The following few months brought some amazing times in Europe, racing and training with teammates and friends. Living the life of a pro cyclist where all you had to worry about was getting up, eating, training or racing and sleeping. Living in different cultures and meeting some incredible people is something I never take for granted.
Upon arriving home I was greeted by the news of the sudden death of one of my closest friends back in Canada. I had worked with Billy on the police force for a number of years and every time I was home we would always catch up for a cold one! Working together in that policing environment made you closer than family and no matter how long it had been since we worked together that closeness was always there. Billy was someone who made you laugh so hard that you would cry and I was sad that I couldn’t go back to say goodbye properly.
Again life moves on and I was named on the Australian Paralympic Team for my second games. At 55 years of age it still excites and amazes me to be representing my country at the highest pinnacle of sport and I am very honoured and humbled to be able to do so.
Another low hit in July when as I was on my way to training, a young man doing the wrong thing while driving (texting) hit me, as I was stopped waiting for traffic, at 60km/hr. Luckily he swerved and didn’t take out my brand new trike on the back of the car but he did write off my car. Needless to say was not very happy but hey it could have been worse. I could have been hurt and my trike could have been demolished, but I was able to ride on!
So it was then off to Italy for a month long staging camp before Rio…again that life as a cyclist! What an incredible place to ride, the sights, the food….the coffee!
Then on to Rio for the 2016 Paralympic Games! I’ve written about my racing so I won’t go into it again but suffice to say that it was AWESOME coming away with 2 Gold Medals! Then coming home to the excitement and celebration from family, friends and the general public was amazing. We couldn’t have asked for a better reception. As Para athletes it was wonderful to be recognized for the hard work and effort put in to our sport. The next couple of months were amazing with Gala Dinners and Awards nights from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi!
But then a huge low when my medals were stolen from my car. And even though I coped a few comments from people like “Well that was dumb leaving them in your car” and worse, I chose to ignore them. I’m not one of those athletes who hides my medals away, I like to share them and anyhow, why do we blame the victim? It was a low life scum who after breaking into 23 other cars that night decided that mine was the last one for the night. Luckily he was arrested the following day but then began an interesting 3 weeks of wondering whether I would get them back or not.
On November 12th I let them go…in my mind they were not returning and it was time to just get on with life. No one could steal the memories of what I had done and it was my story to tell, just not with the medals. It is amazing what can happen when we let go of the baggage because that night I got a call from Detective Joe telling me that he had them. So another high for the year when I collected them 5 days later from him and his team.
And to cap off another year my mother arrived from Canada to spend Christmas and New Years with us. It has been a tough year for her losing my dad but we have been able to share stories, laugh and cry about him. I feel that this year came full circle last night… sitting in the desert in Central Australia with mom, looking at the beautiful sky, listening to the sound of silence, then a didgeridoo filling that silence and I knew that dad will always be around watching over us like one of those thousands of stars in the sky.
So onward into 2017 with all the possibilities before us, with the highs and the lows that are life. Embrace each and every one of them to become the person you were meant to be.