|Amanda Reynolds or “AJ” is our FIRST EVER female Australian Para National and World Champion in para-canoe. |
|In 2016, AJ will represent Australia at the Rio Paralympics where this discipline is being introduced for the first time. |
AJ’s path to becoming an internationally competitive para-canoeist has been defined by a determination to control her own fate.
AJ is a quiet unassuming lady from Macclesfield, Victoria. She is married to Wayne, with whom she has two sons, Ty and Broc. They live on a farm with AJ’s beloved horses and dogs. She is what appears from the outside an ordinary Australian going about her life.
At the age of 17, AJ sustained a dislocated knee cap (patella). Numerous surgical operations followed over a number of years but the condition did not improve. Chronic and debilitating pain developed which specialists were unable to identify the cause of and this pain would eventually consume her daily life. Reduced circulation became an issue with the lower limb, particularly in the lower extremities. The lower limb was in effect dying, causing the limb to become dysfunctional. Such debilitating chronic pain and loss of function affected AJ’s quality of life.
Eventually, doctors discovered that an underlying central nervous disorder was aggravating AJ’s condition, leading to stronger pain medication being administered. Inevitably AJ found herself addicted to prescription medication.
With addiction to medication and the realisation that complete healing would never occur, came exhausting depression. Self-doubt set in. AJ started to question her self-worth and her capabilities as a wife and mother. She was also very aware of the financial struggles the family faced every day as she was incapable of working.
Depression controlled everything, the pain was crippling and her addiction to medication incapacitated her. She was prepared to leave it all behind.
One night, probably the single most important statement in AJ’s life was made, and it was by AJ herself – “I should just cut it off”. The idea had been floated before, but more out of frustration than anything else. But this night, for AJ, it was no longer an off the cuff remark, it became real. The physical and emotional limitations of the injury, central nervous disorder and addiction to pain management caused AJ to ask the radical question - would her quality of life be better without the leg?
AJ and her husband, Wayne, decided to seriously investigate the possibility of amputation. A lengthy process then followed, involving numerous medical specialists and counselling. With the support of Wayne and their two sons, AJ made the decision to amputate her right leg from the knee down.
The operation took place in April 2012. This one courageous act changed everything. For AJ, electing to remove the lower limb that had overwhelmed her life for so long, was absolutely the right choice.
While undergoing re-hab, a friend suggested paddling to Amanda as a physical activity she could try. She had paddled before, but not with any particular intent. After trying her hand at recreational paddling, AJ took on her first canoeing challenge with a friend by competing in the 1 day event of the Murray Marathon.
A fellow paddler at Aura Vale Lake saw something in AJ and suggested she take the sport up seriously. He would become her first competitive coach. By March 2013, AJ was on her way. She paddled the Sale 2 Sea Disability Challenge in March 2013 and then returned to compete the 5 day event of the Murray Marathon at the end of December 2013.
AJ had re-discovered her passion for family and life again, a way to help her overcome the hurdles she faced as an amputee.
AJ’s determination to maintain a drug-free, healthy and active lifestyle after the amputation, has seen her set the waterways alight.
Her debut to international racing at the 2014 World Canoe Sprint Championships in Moscow earned AJ a bronze medal. AJ recognised that becoming the best in the world was within her reach. In the following year, through assessing her capabilities, AJ developed a plan to continue her charge up the ladder.
In August 2015 at the World Canoe Sprint Championships held in Milan, Italy, AJ smashed out the best race of her life and became Australia’s first ever female World Champion Para-Canoeist in kayak.
Following the World Championships, AJ competed at the Rio Olympic Test Event where she backed up her victory. This World Champion now has her sights set firmly on Paralympic Gold in Rio 2016 and making herself unbeatable by anyone.
Today, AJ maintains a strong bond with her husband and sons. Their love and support has been a key critical factor of her success.
When home from training and competition, she spends significant time mentoring and guiding young para-athletes, who are struggling every day with not only their physical disability but psychological challenges. This work is very dear to her heart, as she lives with and experiences the same challenges every day herself. It is very important to AJ that these young para-athletes see how with dedication, love and support it is possible triumph over adversity.
AJ’s journey to date has been of a woman with personal inner strength and courage to make a hard decision, act, recover and participate in an extraordinary life.
Please show your support by visiting the fundraising page or click on the links below to be part of AJ's dare 2 dream journey.
|Check out the links below to learn more about AJ.|