Athlete and disability spokesperson
2019 Australian of the Year | New South Wales
Athlete Kurt Fearnley has represented Australia in wheelchair racing for almost 20 years, winning medals at the Paralympics, world championships and marathons around the world. Off the track he champions the rights of people with disability, calling for greater opportunities on the sporting field, in the workplace and in the community.
Racing helmet and gloves
Kurt is an outstanding athlete. He has won seven world championships, numerous marathons and medals at five Paralympic Games. He firmly believes there should be greater opportunities for people with disability and that substance and courage are more important than image. He has used his success to promote a message of hope, kindness and generosity.
Kurt decided the 2018 Commonwealth Games would be his ‘retirement’ event. He was wearing this helmet and these gloves when he won the wheelchair marathon.
Pride is empowering. I’m a proud Australian; I’m a proud man with a disability. For 20 years I raced for my country. Each and every time as I pushed to the start line, I pulled on my helmet and gloves, told myself I was strong enough to handle the 42 kilometres of pain in front of me, then buried myself for the country and the uniform.
The gloves and helmet are from the last time I pushed to that start line. They are a symbol of decades of preparation and a final moment. The 42.195 kilometres that I pushed in this equipment is one of my most treasured memories. When I see them I feel some of the pain, but mostly the joy of doing the thing I loved in front of the people that mean the most to me in the world – family, friends and fellow Aussies.
I didn’t get to where I am on my own. Thinking about my career, I see person after person that invested and believed in me. I am the culmination of generous moment after generous moment, kind moment after kind moment and that is the glue that holds this country together.
This exhibition was developed by the National Museum of Australia in collaboration with the National Australia Day Council. Portrait images courtesy National Australia Day Council.