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The Journey to becoming a para-athlete

'Running is the purest sport in the world'

I became a para-athlete at the age of 12. Before my vision deteriorated too much, I had tried every sport I could find. Getting out there and giving everything a crack is something that we all should do.

I was diagnosed with juvenile macular degeneration at the age of three, but my vision continued to deteriorate throughout primary school. This was tough because it meant that playing ball sports with my friends at school became harder - and I thought my dream of representing Australia was ruined.

During my primary school years, it was hard to accept what was happening to me. I wanted to do things like play cricket for Australia on Boxing Day, but that just wasn’t going to be possible. However, perhaps it was a blessing in disguise as I now believe that running is probably the sport I am best at of all.

I actually found out about the Paralympic Games from my Mum who took me to a Paralympic talent search. After I completed all the testing, they told me that I should take up running. I have also tried goalball and blind cricket as well, however my talent seems to lie with running.  It was finding out about the Paralympic Games that helped me find my footing in the running world. And I have never looked back.

Running is a simple sport and I have a great team of training partners around me who have helped me when things got tough.  Now I compete internationally, running 1,500 metres and 5,000 metres. I compete as a T12 athlete (equivalent to a B2 classification); and in my events I compete against people in both T12 and T13 (B2 and B3 classification) categories.

In 2020 I will be competing at my second Paralympic Games. The dream is to win the gold medal - and as the current world record holder, it is definitely not out of the question.

I feel really lucky to have pursued running. All my best mates come from the running world. Sport is a great opportunity to meet new people with similar interests. Running is the purest sport in the world - you feel a sense of freedom and, for me, it is an escape from some of the daily challenges of living with a vision impairment.

Photo of Jaryd Clifford running courtesy of John Nepolitan

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