The Rio Sessions: Curtis McGrath

August 25, 2016

As we approach the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we’re more than proud to be official partners of both Australian Teams. Join us over the next few weeks in The Rio Sessions, where we’ll be introducing our fearless Swisse Olympic and Paralympic ambassadors, sharing their stories, dreams and successes.

In session: Curtis McGrath

Having served in the military as a combat engineer, discipline is something that comes naturally to Paralympian Curtis McGrath. It’s allowed him the motivation to recover at a remarkable speed from an IED explosion in Afghanistan in less than three years, and spurred him on to compete on the world stage as a respected athlete. And even now in the lead up to this year’s Games, Curtis is training more than ever; six days a week, twice a day. No wonder he’s tipped for gold.


His Road to Rio

Curtis spent his childhood years running around New Zealand trying out any sport he could. In winter he would snowboard and play rugby, in summer it was cricket and white-water kayaking. He also thrived on team sports, and was a natural athlete.

After his family’s relocation to Brisbane, he joined the Army as a combat engineer. Then in August 2012, halfway through his tour of Afghanistan, Curtis was involved in an IED explosion in an area he and is team were clearing. Being the on-the-ground medic, as soon as he realised he was bleeding from the scars where his legs used to be, he started calling out orders to his fellow soldiers – tourniquet, morphine and IV lines. Curtis could tell he was going into shock, but he still managed to effectively help save his own life.

He was airlifted out and flown to Germany to begin the long rehabilitation process. Determined to ‘keep busy’, he decided to train as a Paralympian. Curtis chose to master the V1 (Va’a Outrigger Canoe), based on his previous experience – it was a new category tipped for inclusion in the 2016 Paralympic Games for the first time. Eight months later, he smashed all expectations by becoming world champion at the 2014 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Moscow in his category.

Then came the bad news, the ICF had decided not to debut the V1 events at the Rio 2016 Games. Far from deterred, Curtis turned around and jumped into a kayak with only weeks before the Australian Championships. Naturally, he won the title and had five months left to train for the 2015 World Champions in Milan. He took out the gold in his preferred class, but also the silver in his new kayak. He followed that up this year with two golds at the 2016 ICF Paracanoe World Championships, confirming his status as the favourite for Rio.


Why you’ll love him

Curtis is defined by his steely determinism and it’s hard not to be impressed. Thirty minutes after he was hit by an IED, in intense pain, he joked to his mates about becoming a Paralympian. And less than four years later he is just that.

Incredibly one of the first major races he competed in was only a year after being injured; he and his dad participated in the Mates4Mates 1000km paddle event from Sydney to Brisbane.

He was the captain of the Australian team at the Invictus games, where he competed in swimming and archery, and participated again in this year’s games, competing again in swimming and also indoor running. All the while, training to represent Australia at the Paralympics. Are you impressed yet?


Our favourite Curtis quotes

On motivation: “Everyone has dark moments, it's not just somebody who has been through a traumatic experience, and wishing I had my legs back, but the way you look at the dark experience and use that as a motivation to push forward is obviously quite a big part of being an athlete and a para-athlete, too.”

On positivity: "Thinking 'why me' isn't going to change anything. I'm more interested in getting on with life than looking at what I could have done differently. For me life is just about achieving goals. It's about going overseas and competing for my country.”

You can see Curtis on the water at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games doing his best to bring home a medal in Paracanoeing.

Check out Curtis' ambassador page here.