Crossing the finish line of a race in second place was a defining moment for Susan. That’s because this wasn’t any old race – this was the 1500m at the 1989 Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled in Japan.
Susan was one of 141 Australian athletes selected for the games, joining 1,646 others from 41 countries. Despite earning a place on Australia’s Vision Impaired team, she had to fund the trip herself – but she was never one to be deterred and set about drumming up support. She wrote letters to companies like Coca-Cola and well-known businesses across Adelaide. In the end, Susan secured significant funding from Messenger Press because she delivered papers in her area, and also from her local council, Woodville Council.
Susan also wrote a letter to John Bannon (who would go on to become South Australia’s Premier) as they ran together in the Adelaide Road Runners Club back in 1987-1989. The letter secured sponsorship from him, too. This strategy proved successful and, before long, she was able to fund the trip.
Susan was determined to get herself to Japan because running was an incredibly important part of her life: it was more than a hobby. It restored her self-worth, which suffered when a slew of schools across Adelaide rejected her enrolment based on her disability, and it boosted her confidence after her vision impairment made it hard to participate in other sports.
“There was an obvious challenge with netball and basketball – I couldn’t see who to pass to,” Susan jokes.
But running was different. When a member of Adelaide Harriers invited Susan to try out, it was love at first stride!
In the coming years, her dedication and natural aptitude for the sport took her to competitions all over Australia and internationally. This success inspired her to compete in half and long-distance marathons, swimming, and race-walking. She also tried her hand at ten pin bowling, which proved especially successful: she won two gold medals, two silver medals, and one bronze medal at the International Blind Sports Federation in 2007. In fact, she was the only Aussie to win gold at these games!
This active lifestyle hasn’t come without a cost, though. Susan’s had six operations on her knee to date, and she admits this has slowed her down. These days, Susan loves tending to her large garden, spending time with her son, Daniel, and walking her adopted greyhound. She also enjoys diamond art, an intricate craft she can enjoy with the help of a light pad and magnifier. While her current lifestyle is fulfilling, Susan misses sports, and she’s considering returning to ten pin bowling.
“I want to do what I want to do,” Susan says. “If I set my mind to something, I can’t be stopped.”
One of Susan’s other passions is volunteering. Over the years, she has volunteered with St John’s First Aid for 15 years, instructed young people at Surf Life Saving SA, and was an athletics coach and swimming coach for vision impaired children, training at the Royal Society for the Blind Oval at Gilles Plains. In particular, helping aspiring athletes to overcome barriers and realise their potential is a cause she really loves – for obvious reasons.
Susan became an Enhanced Lifestyles customer in a rather unlikely way. On her way to the Disability Ageing and Lifestyles Expo in October 2022, she got off the bus and had to walk a fair way to get to the event. Walking for such a long distance inevitably aggravated her knee and it began aching. As soon as she walked in the door, our team spotted her discomfort and offered her a seat at our stand. They began to talk, got along well, and now Susan receives community support from our Lifestyle Attendants!
Having been an Enhanced Lifestyles customer for a while now, Susan has become a regular at our customer events. She loves the social aspect of the events and attending with her Lifestyle Attendants means she can relax and be present.
“I’ve made some very good friends at the Lifestyle Lunches,” Susan says.
So, what’s next for Susan? Well, she’s now set her sights on a new endeavour: becoming a School Services Officer (SSO). She’s completed the necessary qualifications and has worked at schools in her local area, though she’s hopeful that she’ll soon be offered more hours to get this new chapter underway.