Active Geelong ambassador, public speaker and Paralympic gold medallist Richard Colman is a man on a mission. Born in 1984 with Spina Bifida, the second most common physical disability behind Cerebral Palsy, and the birth defect affects the spinal cord which in Richard’s case has left him paralysed from the waist down. But that has never stopped Richard, who wants to help people see the possibility in every situation and to believe that they can do anything they set their mind to.
Growing up in Geelong, Richard attended school at The Geelong College and recently completed his Bachelor of Commerce studies at Deakin University.
“I did every single sport I could growing up, I think that’s why I’ve become an athlete because my school was so inclusive and supportive of the community and me being involved. It really did show me back then that yeah, I’m in a wheelchair but I can still be involved in nearly any sport and opportunities.”
Finding his love for athletics at a young age and beginning to compete against other wheel chair athletes, Richard began training hard and striving towards his ultimate goal – winning a Paralympic gold medal, which he eventually did. Winning a gold medal in the men’s 800m T53 at Athens 2004 and London 2012 Paralympic Games, Richard still believes his greatest achievement was winning bronze at the London Games in the 4 x 4 relay, seeing his teammates faces and the joy it brought to everyone.
“I think that bronze medal outdid my gold because we got to do it as a team and achieve our common goal of winning a Paralympic medal.”
His achievements are endless; in 2007 Richard was the first wheelchair AFL goal umpire in the Geelong league, and received a Deakin Young Alumni of the Year Award in 2012 in recognition of his outstanding sporting achievements, particularly wheelchair athletics. Richard also was made a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours for, ‘significant service to sport as a gold medallist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and to the community.’
We can’t forget to mention he was the first person in a wheelchair to complete the Death Road in Bolivia, a 64 kilometre track which descends 3500 metres!
With sport being such an important part of Richards life, accepting the opportunity to become an ambassador for Active Geelong was a no-brainer.
“A lot of people with disability aren’t very active and that’s what I want to try to change. There’s so many negative flow on effects if you’re not active, you’re not involved in community, you don’t have those social connections. 20% of our population in Australia have a disability, 40% of those live under the poverty line and 80% don’t meet the recommended physical activity guidelines per week. That’s significant.”
Active Geelong is a collaborative project that brings together leading businesses, doctors, researchers and individuals to address inactivity in the Geelong region. If you or your workplace would like to become Movement Champions and help Geelong become Australia’s most active city head to www.activegeelong.org.au to sign up!