Department of Health & Human Services
Premiers Active April
Jessica Gallagher is one of those people who’re naturally gifted at sport. Seems like every sport she’s tried she’s pursued to an elite level. In fact, she’s represented Australia at the Paralympics in three sports so far, and for Tokyo 2020 she’s looking to make that four.
Growing up in Geelong, Jess was into netball and basketball and dreamed of representing Australia. But that dream was put on hold when, in year 12, she was diagnosed with a rare degenerative eye disease called cone dystrophy – she’s now classified as legally blind.
At 21, Jess discovered Paralympic sport and was talent-scouted for athletics. She was selected for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics but was then deemed ineligible to compete because her sight was 0.01% above the accepted level. Devastated, Jess returned to Australia and decided to transition to alpine skiing, which was another sport she’d been interested in before athletics. In 2010, she became the first Australian female to win a medal at the Winter Paralympic Games in the Women’s Slalom.
Returning to athletics, Jess made history again by being the first Australian to medal at both a Winter and Summer International event, winning silver in the long jump and bronze in the javelin at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships.
Jess then decided she wanted to become the first Australian athlete – able-bodied or disabled – to medal at both a Summer and Winter Paralympics. She strategically switched to track cycling and won bronze in Rio 2016 for the one-kilometre time trial, ticking that goal off the list.
Now (predictably!), Jess has switched to rowing and is working towards being selected for the Australian Paralympic rowing team for Tokyo 2020.
Premier’s Active April is so thrilled that Jess is signing on as an ambassador for the fourth year running. Of course, her sporting achievements are incredible, but it’s more than that… Her story demonstrates such tenacity towards facing challenges. She is someone to look towards this April if you want to challenge yourself to get active – in any capacity, no matter what your capabilities are.
“The first step is to just make a move”, says Jess. “Get up, grab a friend, get outside, and find something you love. Getting active doesn’t mean training like a Paralympic or Olympic athlete, it could be as simple as taking your dog for a walk.”
Last updated: March 13, 2020 at: 1:31 pm
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