Leon keen to share sport’s power to lift the dark­ness

Southern Telegraph - - Telegraph Sound Story - Ai­den Boy­ham

One thing I’m very con­scious of is my sport has let me vent my frus­tra­tions at be­ing dis­abled. Leon Larkins

Life can of­ten throw a few curve balls your way, and for Se­cret Har­bour’s Leon Larkins, that state­ment rings true ev­ery day — but he has never let that get in his way.

The 51-year-old, who has been nom­i­nated as a fi­nal­ist in two cat­e­gories for the 2017 City of Rock­ing­ham Sports Star Awards, is liv­ing proof that even in the most un­ex­pected of cir­cum­stances, you can achieve great­ness.

Now a re­spected mas­sage ther­a­pist at Body­work In­te­gra­tion, in Se­cret Har­bour, as well as a cham­pion pad­dler representing Rock­ing­ham Outrig­ger Ca­noe Club and Aus­tralia, his world was turned up­side down in 1998 when a truck tyre blew up in his face and blinded him.

“I lost my right eye and in my left eye, I was to­tally blind for about four months,” Leon said.

“Slowly, over time, you would get a sil­hou­ette back and I had a few op­er­a­tions un­til even­tu­ally now I’ve got roughly 3 to 4 per cent vision.

“My vision is like when you have a hot shower and you look in the mir­ror and it’s all foggy.”

Leon said to go from liv­ing a life that saw him con­stantly play­ing all kinds of sport, be­ing a qual­i­fied car­pen­ter and later driv­ing road trains across WA, to be­ing blind, was a tough tran­si­tion.

How­ever, through­out it all, sport has con­tin­ued to pro­vide an out­let for him to bat­tle the men­tal de­mons that can of­ten creep in — and it is some­thing he wants to help share with oth­ers who suf­fer from a dis­abil­ity.

After get­ting into tan­dem bike rid­ing in 2003, Leon rose through the ranks quickly and was on the brink of Par­a­lympic team se­lec­tion for Athens 2004, only to be de­nied the chance of a life­time after se­lec­tion cri­te­ria in doc­u­ments filed for team se­lec­tion saw him and his part­ner miss out.

World Cham­pi­onship suc­cess in Switzer­land in 2006 fol­lowed as he col­lected two bronze medals and a sil­ver, be­fore first mak­ing a splash in pad­dling in 2011.

Hav­ing since founded the Rock­ing­ham Outrig­ger Ca­noe Club just over a year ago, Leon has tasted in­ter­na­tional gold in Tahiti, as well as na­tional and State ti­tles.

While vic­tory on the water is sweet, it is the im­pact it has on the mind that he wants to help oth­ers with.

“I’ve al­ways played sport, but one thing I’m very con­scious of is my sport has let me vent my frus­tra­tions at be­ing dis­abled,” he said.

“When you are dis­abled, the one thing that hits the most is your lack of in­de­pen­dence.

“I want to use the club as a path­way to pro­vide a bit of a brighter fu­ture for adap­tive peo­ple.”

He said re­gard­less of one’s cir­cum­stances, the aim was to help peo­ple that had dis­abil­i­ties try to op­er­ate in an en­vi­ron­ment where they were treated as nor­mally as pos­si­ble.

“If you’ve got an arm miss­ing or a leg miss­ing, you can come along and we’ll put you in the ca­noe,” he said.

Rock­ing­ham Outrig­ger Ca­noe Club is open to pad­dlers of all ages and ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

For more in­for­ma­tion, find the club on Face­book.

Leon Larkins was all smiles after col­lect­ing gold in Tahiti ear­lier this year.

Leon with fel­low Team Aus­tralia mem­bers.

The trip to Tahiti was fruit­ful for Leon and the team.

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