Having entered the 2012 UCI Para-cycling World Track Championships without much fanfare, Simone Kennedy produced one of the most remarkable international debuts in recent history. The Sydney-based track star stunned her competition in Los Angeles, winning gold medals in the 500m time trial and 3km individual pursuit, announcing herself as a track cycling star.
It was perfect timing for the young Sydney-sider who soon after arrived at her first Paralympic Games full of confidence. The confidence and hard training paid off and Simone won silver in the 3km individual pursuit.
While it appeared her quick success at the international level had come from nowhere, the result was actually a product of years of gruelling training. Following a regime set by dual Paralympic gold medallist Peter Brooks as part of the Parramatta Junior Development Program, it took Simone three years to notch up world beating speed. Initially struggling to ride a track bike, Simone credits regular training and road racing with able-bodied riders for her significant improvement together with motorbike pacing on the track.
Simone ramped up her preparations in 2011, routinely performing 4km sets of hill repeats in training, all while her mum or dad drove behind in their car. That year she won gold in the 500m time trial and bronze in the 3km individual pursuit at the National Championships, as well as completing her final year of school.
Born with cerebral palsy hemiplegia which affects the left side of her body, Simone has always been into sport and her skills were recognised by her high school teachers at Tara Anglican Girls’ School. She credits them for introducing her to disability sport and for opening up a new world and future for her.
While her teachers may have given her the push she needed to explore opportunities in Para-sport, she says it was watching the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games as a 15-year-old that she set her heart on a career as an athlete. She recalls being inspired by not only those with the same disability type as hers, but by athletes with a higher level of impairment which gave her the confidence to join the Junior Development Program.
Simone counts Olympic track cycling legend Anna Meares as a role model, and in preparation for Rio, looks to her as a source of inspiration.
Away from cycling, Simone enjoys playing golf, reading the autobiographies of her sporting heroes and is studying for Bachelor of Sports Coaching and Administration at the Australian College of Physical Education in Sydney.
In 10 years time, she hopes to have a few more Paralympic Games and medals under her belt and to have a fulfilling career as a sports coach.