Kurt Fearnely says it’s “amazing” to be representing his country at the Commonwealth Games. (ABC Newcastle: Robert Virtue)
Newcastle’s champion wheelchair racer Kurt Fearnley has been named co-captain of Australia’s Commonwealth Games athletics team in what will likely be his last appearance in the green and gold on home soil.
He will share the role with champion hurdler Sally Pearson.
The para-sports program will take place on Queensland’s Gold Coast next month, with a record 300 para-athletes competing for 38 medals across seven sports.
This year’s event will include the first wheelchair marathon or T-54 ever held at a Commonwealth Games.
Fearnley said he was not expecting to be named a team captain.
“It’s been a long time doing this thing, and it’s still nice to be surprised,” he said.
“The idea of representing my country…it’s amazing to be thought of as a leader within that community, within that theme’s great.
“To be given the opportunity to be captain, and captain with Sally Pearson as well, it’s an honour.”
He said years of experience meant he was well-prepared for next month’s Games.
“I did it plenty of times before and it’s worked out pretty well – I’m nice and relaxed,” he said.
Home soil victory lap a family affair
Many of Fearnley’s family members have not seen him race since Sydney’s Olympic Games in 2000.
“There’s a migration of Fearnleys heading up to the Gold Coast to be part of this journey with me,” Fearnley said.
“A lot of them haven’t seen me race since Sydney, haven’t seen me pull on the green and gold, haven’t seen me in a racing chair, in person, for 18 years, so it’s a really exciting time.”
Speaking to ABC Newcastle’s Garth Russell, the Newcastle-based athlete all but ruled out another run at the Olympics.
“I never absolutely say ‘never’ but gee, I’m pretty close to saying never ever,” Fearnley said, laughing.
“I just feel like this is the right time to pull on the green and gold for the last time.
“I’ve got two kids at home now [who] I just love spending time with, and I’m just so happy to be at the point where I do I feel like I’m comfortable with this being the last one.
“And I never thought this day would come and I’m just so grateful that I feel this way about my last.”
Marathons still on horizon
Fearnley joked that he would never retire from competing in the marathons that have taken him all over the world.
Kurt Fearnley speaks to Australian media after winning bronze in the T54 5,000-metre event in Rio in 2016. (Twitter: Australian Paralympic Team)
“Hopefully they’ll bury me in a gutter somewhere in the New York or Chicago or the Sydney marathons,” he said.
“But as far as representing the country, as far as that intensity that I bring in to that whole process of pulling on that green and gold, I just feel like this is the perfect time to finish it.
“My body, and also my head, is ready to launch into some other stuff and I feel grateful actually to be able to do it at home, to be able to do it as close to Newcastle as I physically possibly could.
“Yeah, this is the perfect time.”