Quick Facts

Physical Impairment – Quadriplegia
How acquired
Sailing accident
Date of Birth
June 15, 1976
Mona Vale, NSW
Self employed
Started Competing
First Competed for Australia
Games Experience

Beijing 2008, London 2012


John Bertrand and Hugh Treharne

Career Highlights

Winning gold at London 2012

Greatest Moment

Winning gold at London 2012


As a Sydney northern beaches resident with a Queensland heritage, it’s not surprising that sailor Daniel Fitzgibbon feels at one with the water. He has raced sailboats his entire life and continues to do so, despite having fallen off a jetty at the age of 21, leaving him with quadriplegia.

With aspirations to compete at an Olympic Games from a young age, it didn’t take Daniel long to return to his passion and set out to compete at a Paralympic Games. In 2004, he showed his drive and determination to succeed when he won the IFDS Single-person World Championships. The same year, he won the Australian Sailor of the Year with a Disability award and the 2004 Queensland Sailor of the Year, of which he most proud as he was judged above able-bodied sailors.

Daniel’s dream of winning a Paralympic medal came true in Beijing where together with sailing partner Rachael Cox won silver in the SKUD 18 class. But for Daniel, silver wasn’t quite enough. “Being on the podium was awesome, seeing the Australian flag was great but hearing the American anthem was terrible,” he said. “It was an empty feeling and just wasn’t our moment, and that spurred me on to make it our moment.”

Daniel then paired with an unlikely crewmate – six-time Paralympian and wheelchair basketball champion Liesl Tesch. Impressed with her form in the 2009 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, Daniel contacted Liesl about a possible sport swap and the pair began training in early 2011. Less than a month later, they won their first ever competition together at the Sailing World Cups in Miami and Weymouth and two World Championship bronze medals.

In London, Daniel masterminded the regatta of his life. Despite the tragic passing of Liesl’s mother on day one of the Games, the pair steeled themselves for the dogfight with the UK and US teams and came out on top. Not only did they win Australia’s first gold medal in the event, they did it with a day to spare with a record low score. The victory allowed Daniel to release his demons of 2008 and live his dream of watching the Australian flag being raised and hearing Advance Australia Fair over the backdrop of England’s Portland Harbour. Following the Games, he and Liesl received the APC’s Team of the Year award.

Daniel is grateful for the privilege of being able to compete in sailing events all around the world but has one superstition which he believes has helped him in their joint career. During every regatta he competes in, he won’t shave.

Off the water, Daniel has a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management from QUT and is studying for a Bachelor of Business in Property Economics. As a member of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, he has developed their highly successful Integrated Disabled Sailing program, for which he now a proud ambassador.

Sports & Disciplines

  • Sport: Sailing Disciplines: 2-Person Keelboat (SKUD18) Classification: TPA