Liam’s Paralympic dream is becoming a reality

Liam triathlon bike 2018.jpg

Sitting down and thinking about how I got here has brought up quite a few pretty amazing memories.

My name is Liam Twomey, I’m 25 and currently living in Girona, Spain, as an Elite Para-triathlete for Australia. Life wasn’t always like this, so let me rewind a bit so this all makes a bit of sense!

I first came into contact with the START foundation back in 2016, thanks to a very belated phone call I owed Don Elgin. I had just moved to Sydney to try and create a new life and direction, but found myself experiencing constant pain with my prosthetic. This all came about as I had got back into being physically active, and was training in the gym, and trying to teach myself to swim (or to not drown! I’ll let you be the judge of that).

I applied for a grant for a new prosthetic with START, and may have stretched the truth a bit at the time, telling them if they gave me this prosthetic, I would set my sights on competing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. For some context, I hadn’t played competitive sport in years, and didn’t fancy myself as naturally talented at all. I just hoped it would grab the START Board’s attention and I’d jump that hurdle when I had to!

To my excitement, I became the inaugural START grant recipient in 2016 and was able to start living life more fully and trying new things. I had a good chat with START Founder, Kerryn after I received the good news, and I remember her very clearly telling me “well Tokyo’s only a few years away, so you had better get to it!”

Ten minutes later I’m in the shower (sorry for that image!) and was reciting my gold medal speech! Here I was, no sport, no training, no idea what I was doing, but all I knew was I wanted that experience I was thinking about. It was all fueled by Kerryn, and everyone else at START, who approved my proposal, and believed in me, well before I could believe in myself.

Fast forward about 18 months and I found myself, as usual, way over my head. I’d been slowly convinced (peer pressured!) by some of the team at START to move on from swimming and give triathlon a try. I always said I would do one but struggled to act on the idea.

Against much better judgement I’d signed up to compete at the Para-triathlon Oceania Championships, which meant I found myself lining up next to Kerryn herself, and joined by a solid START support crew. To say I was under-prepared is an understatement. I’d never swum in open water, had only run 5km for the first time a month before, and didn’t own a bike. A good friend told me “Don’t worry about all that stuff! You can deal with that later!”

As soon as the start gun went off, everything else disappeared - the worry, the anxiety and nerves. It was just about getting from A to B as fast as possible. For a bloke that thought he hated running only weeks before, it turned out I actually loved it. The race was a success in the sense that I was hooked. I found the sport I was looking for. Plus I wasn’t a total spud at it, which was a bonus too!

So now I’m here, in Girona, Spain. I’ve been very lucky to meet some great people at START to help get me from where I was to where I am today. I’ve also worked really hard every day to try and get to where I want to go. My goal is still to become a Paralympian and represent Australia at the Paralympics, at Tokyo in 2020, and beyond.

The experiences I’ve had along the way have made it all worth it. I always struggled being an amputee as I grew up. Today I’m pretty happy with who I am, inside and out. A lot of that is due to doing the sport I love, and the community of people I’ve met since I embraced myself completely.

The long and short of it is, if I hadn’t applied for a START grant, and received the kick-start and support I needed to move forward, I’m not sure whether I’d be here today, or I’d still be second guessing myself. The prosthetic enabled me to live a full, pain-free life; something I’d never had much of. Whilst that was amazing, the support of START from day one until now has been unparalleled and I am really grateful to become an ambassador for them. To have gone full circle from taking to be able to give back is a massive privilege and something I’m very proud of.

Liam Twomey

Michelle Jelleff