Another Honour for Reynolds (AUS)

For most people, competing in a gruelling sporting event just one month after having your appendix removed would be considered impossible madness.

Unless that person is Australian paracanoeist Amanda Reynolds, or AJ as she’s better known, who has spent most of her recent life staring down life-changing problems.

On Monday night, her recently acquired appendix scar hidden under her Australian tracksuit, AJ Reynolds was given the honour of carrying the Australian flag at the opening ceremony of this week’s World Paracanoe Championships in Duisburg, Germany.

Reynolds is a defending world champion, and has already qualified a quota for Australia at this year’s Paralympics. Having achieved so much since taking up the sport less than four years ago, she wants to defend her world title to send a signal to her opponents.

“I’m hoping it may be a bit easier this year, but in saying that I suppose I have a target on my back this time so there will be some extra pressure now,” Reynolds said from Duisburg.

“I definitely feel as though I’m a better paddler a year on. I’ve been working my butt off, both on and off the water, so I feel stronger and I feel that my technique has also improved.”

Reynolds is no stranger to making sacrifices, but she always believes in the long run it will be worth it.

Her decision four years ago to amputate the lower part of her right leg, after battling severe pain for 20 years after a bad knee dislocation, underlines how tough this 44-year-old Victorian is.

And more recently she’s had to make another tough decision; move from the family home in Victoria to the Gold Coast, where she could devote more time to training with head Paralympic coach, Anna Wood, and other members of the para team.

“It has been hard moving interstate, away from my family, and that’s without doubt the biggest sacrifice I’ve had to make,” she said.

“There are some times which are harder than others. I’ve missed landmark events and birthdays, like a 21st and an 18th, and those events don’t come around twice.

“Obviously I still miss home and family, but I know that being up here is my best chance to fulfil my Olympic dream.”

This week Reynolds will be attempting to defend her KL3 200 world title. She finished third in the same event 12 months earlier, in Moscow, so the improvement has been rapid.

She understands many people find what she has done inspiring, and she hopes others will try things that may normally find challenging.

“It’s kind of cool I suppose,” Reynolds said.

“I didn’t set out with the intention of doing that, but if I can give other people a bit of motivation or incentive to get out there and do stuff which they probably wouldn’t have otherwise done or even attempted, then that’s what puts a smile on my face.”

When she takes her place on the starting line this week, it will be worth remembering; just one month ago she was lying in a hospital bed nursing a sore stomach and with strict instructions not to undertake physical activity for two weeks!

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