John McLean, 48, was involved in a car accident a couple of decades ago. The crash was so severe that he suffered from a punctured lung, a broken pelvis, and several broken ribs. Both his arms were shattered and his back was broken as well. The accident left him paraplegic; he was then required to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
But what he was told 25 years ago, about not being able to walk anymore, did not hinder him from living an active and independent life. Being a rugby player before the accident, McLean always felt that he belongs to the sports arena. And so he started tremor therapy and joined NeuroPhysics functional performance with Kenneth Ware.
His disability did not hinder him from becoming an athlete. It was in 1994 that he first joined a sporting event known as the Nepean Triathlon. His friend, John Young, who was his teammate when he was a football player, encouraged, supported and helped him when he participated in the event.
He used a specially imported handcycle for the triathlon. He endured the one kilometer swim and the 12 kilometers wheel. After successfully finishing the event, he was proclaimed as Australia’s first ever triathlete on a wheelchair.
His participation in the triathlon was just the beginning. In 1995, he decided to join the Hawaiian Ironman after seeing a wheelchair athlete participating in the race. Ironman Triathlon is considered as one of the most challenging and difficult one-day sporting events worldwide. Promoted, organized and licensed by World Triathlon Corporation, a for-profit organization, the Ironman Triathlon consists of a 3.86 km or 2.4 mile swim, a 180.25 km or 112 mile bicycle ride, and a 42.2 km or 26.2 mile marathon.
In 1997, McLean successfully completed the race alongside able-bodied athletes. After this accomplishment, he felt he could do more. He even forgot he’s wheelchair-bound. And so a year later, he decided to give the English Channel a swim. He wanted to inspire people like him that being on a wheelchair is never a hindrance to achieve their dreams and goals.
McLean, inspired to achieve more, qualified in the Paralympics wherein he competed in the 4x400m as well as in the 10,000m and the marathon. In 2008, he won a silver medal in the Belgian Paralympics.
McLean expressed that he did struggle at first but he did not let his physical limitations stop him. He did not allow his disability to stop him from pursuing his dreams and making them all come true. He did not give up on anything just because he uses a wheelchair; instead he strove to achieve everything his heart desired.
McLean’s determination, motivation and will to reach for his dreams are things people around the world, especially those with disabilities, should be inspired of. It may be hard, but it is not impossible and McLean is a living proof of that.