Quick Facts

Physical Impairment – Right above knee and left below knee limb loss
How acquired
Improvised explosive device explosion in Afghanistan
Date of Birth
March 31, 1988
Varsity Lakes, QLD
Sapper in the Australian Defence Force
Started Competing
First Competed for Australia
Games Experience

Rio 2016


Richie McCaw

Career Highlights

Winning the 2014 ICF Para-canoe World Championships in Moscow almost two years to the day that he lost his legs

Greatest Moment

The All Blacks winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup


Curtis McGrath was serving as an Australian Army combat engineer in Afghanistan in 2012 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device, causing multiple life threatening injuries including the loss of his right leg above the knee and left leg below the knee.

Despite fighting shock, blood loss and excruciating pain, it was Curtis, as the combat first-aid medic for his team, who instructed the soldiers around him on how best to perform first aid on his wounds.  Incredibly, as he was being airlifted to safety he made a vow to his fellow soldiers that they would see him see him represent his country again, this time at the Paralympic Games in Rio.

After spending 18 hours in an Afghan hospital, the New Zealand native was flown to a US air base in Germany where he was prepared by medical staff to fly the long haul journey home to Brisbane. After landing in Brisbane, he was hospitalised for a further seven weeks.

Although recovery was physically and mentally tough, Curtis learned to walk on his prosthetic legs in only three months, motivated by the opportunity to march with his unit during their welcome home ceremony.

With the encouragement and support of the Australian Defence Force, his family, and medical personnel, Curtis then embarked on his journey to the Paralympic Games.

As a whitewater kayaker in high school, Para-canoe was a natural choice for Curtis. After linking with coach Andrea King, he made his international debut at the 2014 Para-canoe Sprint World Championships in Moscow, where he won gold in world record time.

In 2016 Curtis achieved his dream of representing Australia at the Paralympic Games. Again he was dominant, winning gold by over a second.

As a tribute to the Australian Defence Force engineers killed in Afghanistan since 2001, Curtis wears a memorial bracelet with the names of eight soldiers. Each time he competes, he picks a name from the bracelet to dedicate the competition to.

The Queenstown native is a keen snowboarder and skier and loves to watch the All Blacks. He is also a passionate Crusaders fan, and is so superstitious that he refuses to wear their jersey on game day for fear of jinxing them.

Among the self-ascribed movie buff’s favourite films is Weight of a Nation, a documentary about the All Blacks in the lead-up to their 2011 World Cup victory. He also loves to watch Avatar and Vikings.

In 10 years’ time, Curtis hopes to be a multiple Paralympic gold medallist and motivational speaker. If he’s no longer competing, he would like to be working in sport, building pathways for kids with disabilities.

Sports & Disciplines

  • Sport: Canoe Disciplines: 200m Sprint Classification: KL2