Kurt Fearnley – crawling the Kokoda Track

Kurt Fearnley – crawling the Kokoda Track
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This ABC News Canberra report profiles Kurt Fearnley AO – one of Australia’s most recognised and successful athletes.

Jennifer Browning's report from Newcastle covers the lead-up to Fearnley's triumphant crawl of the Kokoda Track in 2009.

The use of stock footage featuring people walking the track in good conditions, paired with a jungle soundscape, doesn't quite paint the same picture as Browning's description of the treacherous trip.

However, the story effectively integrates footage from the Academy Award-winning Australian newsreel Kokoda – Front Line! to underscore the emotional tenor of Fearnley's pilgrimage.

The newsreader's introduction frames Fearnley's heroic 96-kilometre journey as both a tribute to Australia's diggers and as a fundraiser for the Movember men's health and Beyond Blue charities.

Fearnley's preparation detailed in the story is awe-inspiring and it's easy to see how his talent and determination helped him win 13 medals across 5 Paralympics wheelchair racing events from Sydney 2000 to Rio 2016 – 3 of them gold. He also won two Commonwealth Games gold medals.

Seeing his custom-made shin pads and wrist guards really emphasises the physical toll that such a journey would take on your body.

Fearnley was born with sacral agenesis which means he is missing parts of his lower spine and all of his sacrum. A keen sportsperson from a young age, he took up wheelchair racing at age 14. He competed in the T54 classification in a variety of events including 800 m, 1500 m, 5000 m, marathon and the 4 x 100 m relay.

In 2018 Fearnley received the Don Award – named after Sir Donald Bradman – which recognises sporting achievement that has inspired the people of Australia. He was the first person with a disability to receive the award.

Excerpt from ABC News Canberra broadcast on 24 October 2009.

Notes by Beth Taylor