Scott Reardon - My Para Athletics Story

For as long as Australia's Paralympic sprint champion Scott Reardon can remember, sport has been his calling; a calling put in peril after suffering an accident as a 12-year-old on his parents' farm.

17/05/2017 13:30

“The place we’re from has 4500 people and is 35 kilometres from the closest town, Temora. Sport was always huge," says the T42 100m Paralympic and world champion, reflecting on his childhood.

"I used to run and play rugby league when I was growing up. It’s something I always wanted to be a part of and represent Australia in one of those sports. I always had that goal from as young as I can remember."

Without the needing nor wishing to go into the details of that day in 2002, Reardon sums up the incident at his family home which left his hopes of a future in sport in jeopardy.

"To cut a long story short, I had a fight with a tractor. My shoelace got caught in a moving part of the tractor and it tore my leg off at the scene."

Living "in the middle of nowhere", some 500 kilometres from both Sydney and Melbourne and a substantial way outside of Temora, made an already grave situation for Reardon and his family even worse.

"We were 35 kilometres from the closest hospital and realistically about 300 kilometres from the closest trauma unit." Reardon lived so far from where he could receive treatment that his parents drove out with him to meet the oncoming emergency services.

"Thankfully I survived the accident, went to Canberra and got put into hospital there," he says.

From being one of the most active, fittest and fastest children in his school Reardon said he was left feeling lost, seemingly robbed of his sporting dreams before he had reached his teenage years. After 12 operations in less than a month, surgeons determined they were unable to reattach Reardon's lower leg.

Waterskiing offered Reardon his reprieve as the Australian chose to revisit the sport he first took up in 1996 in order to quench his thirst for activity. And remarkably within one year of his accident he found himself in an entirely new situation.

"Over the next six years I travelled around the world. I competed at three water skiing world championships and won three titles," he says.

Still Reardon craved more from his sport and the big turning point came for him in 2008, during his final year at school. Instead of keeping his head bogged down in textbooks studying for his final exams, Reardon had his head turned.

"I was meant to be studying for my final exams but the Paralympic games in Beijing were on. Instead of studying every night I’d watch the Paralympic highlights from the night before.

"I remember watching the T42 race from Beijing. It was won in 12.32 seconds and I remember thinking it was pretty fast, but I could probably run faster."

Reardon continues: “I wanted something bigger than waterskiing. In my opinion track and field is pinnacle of Paralympic and Olympic sport. It’s the way the Olympics started. It’s about who can run fastest.

"For me the history that’s involved in track and field is really exciting. Then that race in particular made me think to give it a go."

"It sparked something there. I got in contact with some coaches at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. They invited me down and the rest is history.

"Ever since then we’ve been working our backsides off to make sure I’ll be a Paralympian first and then a Paralympic champion."

Back to London

Reardon's relentless endeavour bore fruit just four years after taking the decision to pursue his sprinting ambitions when he came away with a surprise silver medal in the 100m.

The T42 sprinter came in as an underdog, but left with an elevated status.

“After London we went back and could sit down and work out where my strengths and weaknesses were, and what I needed to work on to progress," Reardon says.

"The technology didn’t change too much. It was about connecting the dots and giving another four years to progress.

"I was lucky enough to win a couple of World Championships and a Paralympic title in the middle of that. It’s been a pretty amazing last four years."

An amazing four years which will come full circle for Reardon. He will be back in the London Stadium this year as the man to beat after a dramatic finish in his Paralympic final in Rio saw him cling on for gold as he had been unable to do four years previous.

Among Reardon's challengers look likely to be British veteran Richard Whitehead, Danish runner Daniel Jorgensen and American Shaquille Vance.

Reardon says: "I knew they’d be coming for me. All those guys are 10 or 15 centimetres taller than me so they’ve got longer legs. These little legs can only go so fast for so long.

"Our race has the power to be the closest race for the top four or five positions in the whole championships. It will be one to watch for sure. It will be super close as we get down to the last 10 metres. Hopefully I’ll have my nose in front and be able to hold on again."

Tickets to the World Para Athletics Championships London 2017, taking place at the London Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from 14-23 July, are available at https://tickets.london2017athletics.com