There are two big motivators driving Troy Sachs as he sets off for his first ultra-marathon.
The first is to feed what he calls “the beast” inside him, that fiercely aggressive characteristic that helped Sachs propel the Australian men’s wheelchair basketball team to two gold medals and a silver from his five Paralympic Games between 1992 and 2008.
The other is a burning desire to bring more attention to International Day for People with a Disability (IDPWD).
“Being an individual with a disability my whole life, I feel there’s not enough made of the day,” Sachs said.
“There’s not enough publicity, not enough promotion. This is a day that’s been designated by the UN to celebrate people with a disability, but I don’t think our country acknowledges people with a disability enough, I don’t think there’s enough programs or acceptance of the need for accessibility, equality, acceptance – all those cliche things. By doing something like this, I can tick some personal boxes and also use the event to promote the bigger picture.”
Sachs is a Sport Australia Hall of Fame member who is a below-the- knee amputee. His run is taking him from Parliament House in Canberra to The Domain in Sydney, 310 kilometres away, where he will arrive on IDPWD, December 3, which is also Sachs’ 46th birthday.
“It’s something my brother and I have talked about for a couple of years now, to do an ultra marathon,” he said.
“No amputee’s ever done it. But I also want to increase my profile and try and start a conversation with people who can affect change.”
As part of that change, Sachs is planning a soft launch of his Ree Foundation, through which he plans to work on mainstreaming disability through the arts, music, participation in sport and other areas.
The long term goal, he said, was to have a ranch in the bush where rehabilitation techniques unrecognised by the NDIS could be utilised.
“We want to bring attention to my foundation, which we’re in the process of starting up, and also put myself on the map as an ultra-runner. I want eventually to become an mountaineer and adventurer. The beast inside me is still there. I don’t compete against other people anymore, I compete against myself. But it’s also about getting a message out there. We need to encourage people to get off their arse and get active again.”
Perceptions of people with a disability had improved somewhat through the rise of the Paralympics, he said. However, each step forward around Games time was countered by backward steps at other times.
“Recognition for the Paralympics and Paralympians has increased a lot. Congratulations to Paralympics Australia and the athletes who’ve been waving the flag. But for the three-and-three-quarter years in between each Games, what happens? We need to keep the narrative going.
“The Paralympics is the pinnacle of sport for people with a disability. But what I want to do is encourage people to participate. Like Madi [de Rozario] said, not everybody can be a Paralympian, just like not everyone can be an Olympian. But we’ve got to keep encouraging programs that facilitate participation, whether it be in organised sport or just getting out there and being active. That’s how I see my role now.
“I used to be very motivated and aggressive on the court and I guess this is my new crusade.”
By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 27 November 2021