Australian Paralympian Shares How Gymnastics Helped Her Athletics

It's International Day of People with Disability! Gymnastics NSW is excited to showcase the story of Australian Paralympic long jumper and World Championship Bronze Medallist Sarah Walsh.
The 23-year-old shared a bit about herself, her journey in gymnastics and how to make the world a better place for people with a disability.

GNSW: What is your disability?

Sarah: I was born with a condition called fibular hemimelia, which essentially just means that when I was born, I was missing one bone below my knee on my right side. And I had a small foot that was attached as well, it didn’t really form properly. So my parents made the decision to have my foot amputated when I was 18months old. And I’ve worn a prosthetic leg ever since then.

GNSW: Why did you start doing gymnastics?

Sarah: I started gymnastics when I was about three years old as a way of trying a different sport and trying new things, as well as meeting new people. And I did it up until I was about 12 years old.

GNSW: What was your favourite part of gymnastics?

Sarah: I think my favourite part of gymnastics was trying different things and seeing what I could and couldn’t do with my prosthetic leg. I am not good at most of the things in gymnastics, and I still can’t do a handstand or a cartwheel. Even after all these years. But I just had a lot of fun being at gymnastics and trying different things.

GNSW: Did participating in gymnastics help your athletics career?

Sarah: I would say gymnastics did help me develop strength and flexibility in my younger years. And also teach me some fundamental skills that also translate over into my athletics as well. Whilst they’re two completely different sports, there is a lot of the stretching and flexibility and strength stuff that is pretty similar to what I do today in long jump.

GNSW: What does International Day of People with a Disability mean to you?

Sarah: International Day of People with a Disability is really important to me because it does shine a light on people with a disability. And it gives them the opportunity to share their stories and show people what they’re capable of despite having a disability. And I think it’s also about raising awareness for people with a disability and showing that despite being disabled or having some sort of a disability, they can still get out there and do things just like everyone else can.

GNSW: What are some of the ways we can be more inclusive as a society of people with a disability?

Sarah: To make our society more inclusive, we do need to involve people with a disability and give them the opportunity to have a go at things. Whether that be gymnastics or sport or just everyday jobs – opportunities that everyone else has. I think it’s important that people with a disability are included in that and given the same opportunities as everyone else. Because I can tell you that they will do just as an amazing job as someone else. 

I think it’s also really important that we see the person for being more than a person with a disability. Whilst their disability may impact their life, they are still a human being as well and they should be given the same opportunities as everyone else.

Click here to learn more about International Day of People with Disability.