Who is Kurt Fearnley?

Journal,  Journal

In March of 1981, in the small Australian town of Carcoar, a boy named Kurt Fearnley was born without the lower portion of his spine.

And yet, despite not having the use of his legs, Fearnley has achieved more in his 38 years, than most of us would achieve in a lifetime.

At 19 years of age,  Fearnley competed at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic games, returning home with two silver medals.

Four years later in Athens, he won two gold medals – in the 5000m and marathon races. Fearnley had made his breakthrough and proceeded to set the world alight.

He went on to win seven world championships, and more than 30 marathons worldwide – including ten in 2007, and three straight titles in New York.

At the Beijing Paralympics in 2008 he won another gold medal, once again in the marathon event. He continued to compete in the subsequent 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games, taking home bronze and silver medals respectively.

As if that wasn’t enough, between Paralympic success stories, Kurt was a part of the winning crew of 2012’s Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

He also crawled the 96 kilometre Kokoda Track to raise awareness and funding for Beyond Blue and Movember, a men’s health charity.

“To put it plainly, my life has simply been the culmination of hard work,” says Fearnley.

“I think the most meaningful parts of life are also often the most difficult, because they build substance.

“The challenge is the learning, and the impact that it has is what shapes you.”

Today, Fearnley is a passionate disability advocate, contributing to a number of charitable initiatives.

He’s a board member of the Australian Paralympic Committee and the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation, and a member of the International Paralympic Committee’s Athlete Advisory Council. He was also a founding member of the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s Advisory Council.

It’s no overstatement to say Kurt Fearnley is a national hero.

His endeavours have earned him such honours as 2019 New South Wales Australian of the Year, and 2009 New South Wales Young Australian of the Year.

In 2018 he won The Don award for being the Australian sports person most likely to inspire the nation. In the same year he was recognised as an Officer of the Australian Order.

In 2020, the REIQ is proud to welcome him to its annual Summit in March, where he will share his story, his challenges, his successes, and his wisdom.

“Everybody takes away something different, and everybody relates to it in their own way,” Fearnley says of the public reaction to his extraordinary journey.

“I’ll tell my story, talk about some of the pivotal moments in my life, and how I’ve overcome challenges and adapted to difficulties.

“I can’t say my presentation is inspirational, because it’s up to people to make up their own minds about what’s inspirational to them – they decide what is and isn’t inspirational.

“All I can do is get up and share my story.”

A remarkable human both physically and mentally, Fearnley never feels the need to pity himself or his disability, and believes hard-work, dedication and a willingness to dive into challenges, is what keeps people moving forward.

“Honestly, I feel fortunate, like I’ve won the lottery,” he says.

“There have, of course, been tough times, and a lot of hard yards, but there have also always been people there to push me, and support me.”

Whether the challenges you face are in your professional life or your personal life, Fearnley’s journey of overcoming difficulties and pushing the limits of what we thought possible will give you the motivation to tackle 2020 head on.

“I’m not so much inspired by people, but rather by deeds, and actions,” says Fearnley.

“If I see someone willing to become uncomfortable, or to go through pain and hardship, in order to create a positive outcome – that inspires me.”