District 10 was proud to host Jess Gallagher as keynote speaker at a recent lunch. Jess is the first and only Australian athlete (Olympic or Paralympic) to win medals at both Summer and Winter Paralympics.
Jess spoke to the District Leadership Team about overcoming adversity, the value of teamwork and the need for trust, of both oneself and those who are a part of your team.
Jess’s story is both inspiring and motivating. At the age of 17, Jess was a junior elite athlete in netball and basketball. Almost overnight Jess lost 90 per cent of her vision. She was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease brought about by an hereditary condition despite no known history of the disease in her family.
Jess had strong aspirations to represent Australia, initially as an able-bodied athlete. Jess’s determination and high aspirations saw her continue to pursue her dream of representing Australia in sport. She has now represented Australia at the Paralympics in three events, long-jump, downhill skiing and tandem cycling at the velodrome.
Setbacks along the way only served to drive Jess’s determination and ambition. Her optimism and persistence to succeed led to a more resilient self.
Courage, trust, teamwork and communication are hallmarks of Jess’s success as a Paralympian athlete.
She learned to face her fears and recognise that it was not a failing to be frightened. She channelled her fear to become courageous. She learnt to trust not only herself but also her teammates and together, they learnt to communicate clearly and succinctly to safely and successfully navigate the course – be it snow skiing or tandem cycling.
And always, by her side, Jess’s mum has been there to support her in all her endeavours.
Jess is also a practising Osteopath and finds time to work in professional consulting rooms inbetween training for her two chosen sports.
All those who attended the day agreed it was an absolute delight and privilege to meet both Jess and her mum. Jess’s talk was spellbinding and everyone in the room couldn’t stop talking about it afterwards. One avid attendee exclaimed that the talk was “timely and thought provoking – fantastic!”
Jess is a brilliant speaker and an inspirational and brave young woman. As another member of the group put it, “[The day was] extremely valuable, those who didn’t come missed an incredible opportunity to hear from an amazing individual”.