As he approaches his final years of high school, Liam Luff looks to the future with one eye on a career in business and the other on the athletics track.
By Don’t DIS my ABILITY ambassador Liam Luff
It feels funny sitting down to write this blog. This experience isn’t exactly something I’d ever imagined doing, nor really intended upon, but when offered, I had no reason not to. I’m frankly quite excited about the experience, yet anxious and nervous at the same time.
Having gone through almost 11 years of school already, I’ve had more than enough opportunities to enhance my public speaking and presentation skills, but being honest, I’m not sure I’ve developed too much since year 1. I’m currently wrapping up year 10 now, looking forward to year 11.
Quite a percentage of the other Don’t DIS my ABILITY ambassador have amazing achievements, whether it be personal overcoming, sporting, educational or be taking part in various groups or efforts of equality and fairness for others with a disability, whilst I, myself, can’t really imagine myself with a future quite as remarkable, but it’s one I’m more than excited for.
My main future goal is one that would seemingly bore a lot of people. The future I’ve been working towards for years is primarily a simple job. My perfect career would be in the financial sector, working as an accountant, stock broker, or pretty much anything within the financial region, I’m young enough to not be certain yet, I think. But I’ve always been fascinated and enthralled by the economy and the business sector, whilst admittedly, as of now, I know quite little, I really aspire to know all about it. I really want to learn and know as much as possible about all those kind of things.
For five or six years now, I’ve been playing wheelchair basketball with the Sutherland Sharks under the guidance of Tom Walsh. He helped put the group together in about 2007, and over the years we’ve adopted many new members and everybody’s skills have massively increased, with a large percentage of members from our team being able to play on the NSW Juniors team at one time or another (I played with them on one tournament, but I had to sacrifice further participation as it would become too crowded and hectic with too many sports, school and prior engagements).
About 16 months ago, I tried my hand at track athletics and was evidently, and very fortunately, taken under the wing of Rosemary Little, Angie Ballard and the legendary Louise Sauvage, all three of whom I’ll forever be endlessly thankful. Over the next 10 to 12 months, my times kept becoming faster and faster, reaching pretty good times for my classification (T34).
At the start of this year, I went to the Summer Down Under, and had the luck of rooming with a definite up and comer, Luke Bailey, the multiple Paralympic medal winner, at only 16, Rheed McCracken (who shares my classification of T34) and the charming Kurt Fearnley. I recall when I first arrived at our apartment/room, I came in and put my things away, just to leave to room to find Kurt sitting opposite. I remember my immediate thought was something along the lines of ‘No…. way.’
My mind was metaphorically blown. I felt like at only six months into the whole racing field, there must be something wrong. They wouldn’t put a rookie in the same room as a living legend, would they? Fortunately they did.
The next week was one of the most amazing in my life. Every night watching the tennis or whatever movie was on, talking with Kurt, Rheed and Luke. Admittedly, the first few nights I sat in my room alone reading, out of fear of talking to one of the greatest disabled athletes of all time, and one of the fastest in my classification. But once I grew to feel comfortable(r), it was an amazing experience.
At that time, I imagined myself possibly, and hopefully going to the Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016. But over the next few months, I struggled to fit in extra training sessions, due to the pressure and extra time I needed to spend with my homework, assignments and school work in general. Two years ago, I had surgery on my legs, and my surgeon placed two metal plates in both of my hips. Over the last few months, they have been seemingly rubbing against the bone, and causing me severe agony when I sit in my track chair. My doctor has booked me in to have the plates removed, but as of now the appointment isn’t until June 24, next year.
I participated in the All Schools Open a month ago, coming third place in the AWD’s in all of my races, and unfortunately after that event, I had traumatic pain in my legs for the next week without any relief. Unfortunately, it seems I’ve had to prematurely retire from serious competition for a while, at least until the plates are removed. I am still intending on competing in the Australia Day 10 kilometre race, but it will certainly be quite a trial for me, I have a feeling.
In a way, I am saddened by it, but it may be a strange hint of serendipity, as throughout the next few years, I will embarking into the senior school years, where I really must get more serious and dedicated to my school work to achieve the marks and goals I want to in the future. So over 2014 to 2016, my main goal will be completing high school and getting as good of a HSC as possible. I will most likely take a gap year, and possibly attempt to return to racing and increase my fitness before I embark onto many years more of university for my career goal.
I feel like in a way, I hope for what a lot of those with disabilities hope for. To be normal.
Liam Luff is a 15-year-old wheelchair track and road athlete. Although he’s only been training since July 2012, he recently made first place in the national championships in the 100m, 200m, and 400m for the T34 category. Currently in year 10 at Port Hacking High School, Liam wants to study finance after he graduates. He likes playing basketball, hanging out with friends and watching movies. At the moment he is enjoying making his way through George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones novels. Liam has had hereditary spastic paraplegia since birth, which affects his legs.