Having only started wheelchair racing two years before making his Paralympic debut, Rheed McCracken’s quick rise in the sport puts him in place to become a future Paralympic legend.
Born with cerebral palsy, which caused extreme tightness in his leg muscles forcing them to internally rotate, Rheed displayed determination and passion for sport from a young age. Prior to discovering wheelchair racing, he participated in the ambulant 100m, 200m, discuss, shot put and long jump at his home club, West Bundaberg Little Athletics.
Rheed was 13-years-old when the strain of ambulant sport caught up with him, and after multiple surgeries, he made the decision to put himself in a wheelchair. Ever determined to continue in athletics, he attended a Para-athletics junior development camp but it was a chance meeting with Channel 7 media personality David Koch that would soon propel him into Paralympic stardom.
Seated next to Kochie on a plane, the two struck up a conversation about his long term sporting idol Kurt Fearnley. Having known Kurt for years, Kochi offered Rheed the opportunity of a lifetime when he challenged him to compete in a wheelchair race in Sydney to meet his hero. Having walked his whole life, and still taking part in ambulant races, Rheed had never before considered wheelchair racing. Soon enough, a new love for the sport was found.
Since then, Rheed’s athletic career has been on an accelerated curve. Still only a teenager, Rheed has now not only competed with his hero but is following his footsteps, winning the junior division of the 2013 Oz Day 10km and finishing third in the 2011 Gold Coast Half Marathon.
Making national selection for the first time at the 2011 IWAS World Games, Rheed registered an extremely impressive debut performance where he won gold in the 100m and silver in four more events to qualify for his first Paralympic Games at London 2012.
Having made it to London, Rheed put his best performances forward to win bronze in the T34 200m followed by silver in the 100m. His outstanding performances were recognised when he was named the Australian Paralympic Committee’s Junior Athlete of the Year alongside swimmer Maddison Elliott.
Hailing from Bundaberg on the North Queensland coast, Rheed races with a superman logo taped under his chair in honour of his late friend, wheelchair racer Tyson Cooper. With Tyson’s Paralympic dreams in mind, Rheed always carries the Superman logo to symbolically fulfil his dream, and in a twist of fate, won his first Paralympic medal on what would have been Tyson’s 23rd birthday.
Rheed’s main goal in life is to become a successful Paralympian. To him this doesn’t just mean becoming a Paralympic gold medallist, but someone who is remembered for always performing well and giving every competition a red hot crack.