I was fifteen months old when I got polio.   There were no special concessions or anything.  When my younger sister wanted to learn to swim, I said that it was something I could do, so I could go along.  My coach had a small pool in his backyard, so you swam a few strokes and then you turned around.  After two weeks he said, ‘Come and join a swimming squad at Beatty Park.’  I turned 14 on the 1st of July and a week later he said, ‘Oh, you’ve just broken a world record.  I was selected to go to Tokyo in 1964 and came back with three gold medals and three world records.  I’m still the youngest swimmer to win individual gold after 55 years.  I’m hanging on to that record.  I went to Israel in 1968 and won another three medals.  The second standout in my life was when I came home from surgery in a wheelchair and started using public transport.  It’s so easy.  I told my sister, ‘This damned wheelchair has given me the freedom to get out and about more!’  To me the wheelchair is the best thing since sliced bread.  I’m involved in dementia research because my mother had it.  They asked me, ‘Now that you’re 65, how much have you slowed down?’  I said, ‘Look I’m sorry, I haven’t slowed down, I’m actually on six or seven committees now and I’m never at home.’  I’ve realised I can make little differences for people with disabilities.

The Lives We Lead Worklife has been funded by the Department of Communities, Disability Services.
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