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A wheel inspiration – Liesl Tesch

Phoebe Sheridan  |  23 August 2018

‘I swerved over the wrong side of the road, hit the gutter, somersaulted over the handlebars, fell down about two metres, landed on my bottom, and broke my back.’

Liesl Tesch was 19 when she suffered a near-fatal mountain-biking accident. She remembers nothing about the moment that changed her life forever.

Her first memory was two weeks later when she woke up in hospital and was told she wouldn’t walk again. Liesl never thought her world was going to end and against the odds she started feeling tingling in her spine during rehab. Her determination resulted in her being able to regain some use of her legs. ‘I waddled out of that hospital’, she said proudly.

Sport was a big component of her life and she jumped at the opportunity to try wheelchair basketball. She was a natural and was soon playing against the men in the professional European league.

Liesl went on to represent Australia at an amazing seven Paralympic Games – winning two gold medals. She’s competed in both wheelchair basketball and sailing at the Paralympics.

In 2017 Liesl was a surprise Labor candidate for the state by-election in the seat of Gosford, becoming the new local member – the first person to enter state parliament in a wheelchair.

It’s not for her sporting exploits, triumph over adversity or political career that makes her my local hero. Liesl genuinely cares about the people in her community and I’m lucky enough to have experienced this first hand. Liesl recently heard that a deaf girl was joining our Aussie Rules team. She took it on herself to come down to training one cold, windy night. With a couple of Paralympic medals around her neck, Liesl introduced herself to our team. Her advice was simple – enjoy footy and treat Cathleen like anyone else.

This may not seem like the act of a hero, but that simple gesture had a huge impact on Cathleen, who had been rejected from multiple team sports due to her disability.

‘I just do things because I think it’s the right thing to do’, Liesl said.

Next day Liesl found a post-it note on her office door. It read: ‘Thank you so much for being a great human being. You became my little girl’s hero last night. Such an inspiration.’

‘Her mum left me such a beautiful note it’s stuck up on the wall ... I cried’, she said.

‘So many people with disabilities don’t have role models ... I want to support Cathleen’s bravery. She’s stepped out of the box and done something that someone who is deaf may have not done before’, Liesl explained.

On news that Cathleen had scored her first goal Liesl said, ‘That’s to be expected. Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t have a job, score a goal, or do whatever you need to do.’

Liesl Tesch is a true inspiration, not just to Cathleen, but to everyone lucky enough to be touched by her.

Phoebe Sheridan is from St Joesph's College, East Gosford, NSW.


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