YOU CAN BE AT INVICTUS
YOU GET BACK ON THE HORSE AND MAKE THE BEST OF THE SITUATION LIFE HAS GIVEN YOU.
footnote. His focus was now on Rio. The kayak is a faster craft than the outrigger and, while he was a quick learner in making the swap, he was now aiming for perfection. He arrived at the 2016 World Canoeing Championships in Germany after making a detour to compete in his second Invictus Games in the US on the way. This time, he beat Swoboda by a fraction of a second. It targeted him as the man to beat a few months later in Rio. “I think there’s a right time for everything. I went into Rio as one of the favourites. I’d had a good preparation and on the day of the final, the conditions were very good. “It was an amazing race. It was just one of those races that was almost perfect.” As at the World Championships, Swoboda got off to a flying start and Curtis had to chase him down in the last 50m to clinch gold in Paralympic record time. When he crossed the finished line, media reports suggested his reaction was notably understated. Curtis put it down to relief and exhaustion but perhaps the sense of destiny wasn’t lost on him either. His focus is now on the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020, where the outrigger canoe has been added back to the program. Two years out, things are looking positive. His gold medals in both classes at the recent World Cup event and World Championships come on the back of an interrupted preparation, but Curtis is realistic too. “I’ll be 32 in 2020 so my physical ability to be competing against younger competitors in a sprint sport will be a challenge,” he says. Not that he’s ever backed away from one before. He plans to get back to his disciplined training schedule of 11–12 sessions a week and give it his best. In the six years since his accident, Curtis has earned a string of accolades for his achievements, including an Order of Australia medal and the 2017 Sportsman of the Year at the World Paddle Awards, the first para-athlete to win it. It is not the life path he foresaw but Curtis doesn’t spend too much time looking back. “You get back on the horse and make the best of the situation life has given you,” he says. “I’ve come a long way. That’s the power of sport.” Sydney will host the fourth Invictus Games from October 20–27. The Games were started by Prince Harry, who was inspired by an event he attended for wounded veterans in the US. He launched a large-scale multi-nation event after seeing the positive impact sport could have on the rehabilitation and recovery of service men and women who had been wounded, injured or fallen ill in the line of duty. More than 500 athletes from 18 countries, including Iraq, Jordan and Ukraine, will compete in Sydney in 11 medalled sports and two feature events. Some events are ticketed and others – road cycling, sailing and a driving challenge – are free to attend. The games will be broadcast on the ABC.
RIGHT: Paracanoeist Curtis Mcgrath won gold in the Rio Paralympics and is an ambassador for the upcoming Invictus Games in Sydney. LEFT (OPPOSITE PAGE): Curtis at the European Canoe Sprint Olympic Qualifying in 2016.
Curtis Mcgrath after winning the KL2 at the Rio Paralympics.
Curtis Mcgrath before he lost both his legs while serving in the Middle East.