Mentor fuels race success

Race ready: Cormac Ryan competes at an event at Sydney Olympic Park on October 31. Photo: Kitty Beale

Cormac Ryan tackled Sydney’s steepest hill race in 18 minutes this year, fuelled by tenacity and helped by a special gift.

The Year 6 student at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School Concord West completed the Balmoral Burn for the sixth time in a wheelchair given to him by Paralympian and marathon racer Kurt Fearnley.

Cormac, who was born with spina bifida, met Fearnley at the event in 2012 and was encouraged to continue to follow his interest in sport.

“Kurt came down and had a chat with me after the race and gave me advice,” Cormac said. “He said just keep going with the sport and do what you want to do. I think Kurt is very inspiring.”

Since receiving Kurt’s aerodynamic, three-wheel chair, Cormac has completed the City2Surf, an Australia Day 10km junior event and countless races at school athletics carnivals in excellent times. This year was the first that Cormac finished the Balmoral Burn on his own.

He also competes in tennis and swimming events.

I built a voice inside that was fierce.

– Kurt Fearnley

Kurt has placed first in 32 wheelchair marathons and completed the gruelling 96km Kokoda Track and Sydney to Hobart yacht race. He also provided inspiration to principals from Sydney Catholic Primary schools when he spoke to them in August about the importance of building children’s resilience and his disability advocacy work.

“I spent 20 years building a solid sense of who I am, and I built a voice inside that was fierce,” he said.

“My community built it as well. We need to start focusing on that voice that each child is carrying around and go straight to it. Talk to them about reminding yourself on a day-to-day basis that you can handle what is in front of you. Remind yourself that that part of you that other people perceive to be broken isn’t. It’s beautiful and it’s the thing that makes you unique, and strong, and you. That, to me, is resilience.”

Cormac presented Kurt with a gift at the event. He has also been a voice for young people with similar conditions to his.

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