Athlete Mick Fawkner is not only battling a rare nerve disease, but is also preparing to take on athletes half his age at the World Para Athletics Grand Prix in Paris.
The 61 year old has won gold and silver medals for javelin and discus at the Australian Track and Field Championships and is now preparing to take on Europe’s best.
Wangaratta based Fawkner considers the Grand Prix as a stepping stone for the Paralympics in Tokyo next year.
“I’d like to see how I cope against the Europeans leading up to the Paralympics,” Fawkner said.
“I’m a little bit behind a few of the throwers from the European countries because my last competition was back in March/April for the Australian Championships.
“I’ve been training really hard in the gym and got myself stronger and fitter, and have been heading to Melbourne to catch up with my coach and do some throws training, so I expect a good performance,” he said.
Fawkner started his athletics career as a sprinter, but was forced to take a new direction after being diagnosed with a rare nerve disease in 2010.
“I had atrocious nerve pain and had to learn to walk again,” Fawner explained.
“My nerves off my spine are all damaged, and it’s a slow deterioration. Although there is a lot of testing to try and find a cure, there’s nothing available yet.”
Fawkner switched his focus to javelin and discus through the para competition and holds Australian records in his classification for both events.
Although he’s older than most of his competitors, age hasn’t proved a barrier to success for the 61 year old.
“Most competitors are mainly in their 20’s and 30’s,” Fawkner said.
“I want to prove age is just in your mind. If you want to achieve your goal you first job is believing in yourself. Completely focus on what you want to achieve. Dreams can come true, but you’ve got to work for it.”
Fawkner has been supported on his journey by his employer Merriwa, where he’s worked as a packer for nearly five years.
Merriwa CEO Bart Crawley says athletics is more than a passion for Mick.
“Chatting with Mick one day at work, he shared with me that his sporting interests would not be funded by the NDIS,” Mr Crawley said.
“Understanding that athletics wasn’t just a sporting interest, but key to his therapy in managing the pain caused by his disease, we developed a sponsorship and support package to help.”
There’s no doubt there will be a big support crew cheering Mick on from the sidelines.