Name: Jocelyn Neumueller
What is your dream?
My dream is to achieve a podium position at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, while inspiring and encouraging other people, especially females living with a disability to get involved with sports In the short term I will continue training hard, pushing myself to new levels, working towards achieving a podium finish at the 2016 Paracanoe World Championships in the Czech Republic.
While doing this, I hope to raise more awareness of the sports available for individuals living with disabilities in South Australia. I am the only female to participate at both of these groups in the state. This needs to change!
Tell us about you
Growing up I was involved in any and every sport available, being selected for several state teams. I began focusing on sailing in my early teenage years, however this quickly changed when life as I knew it, was turned upside down.
This was the starting point of a new, challenging yet incredible journey to come. I was diagnosed with a thyroid disease, and a rare autoimmune encephalopathy which resulted in paralysis – which was just a starting point into the medical world – with only more diagnoses to come.
I was told I was unable to continue school or sport. It turned out I proved them wrong, returning to both, but for me, sport was my saviour. After around a year of this isolation, I was introduced to Sailability, which gave me a true sense of purpose and made me realize I still had so much to offer and achieve, despite my disability.
I was invited to try Paracanoe towards the end of 2015. I was identified for talent and was selected to represent Australia at the Paracanoe World Championships in May 2016. I placed 8th in the final which allowed me to represent Australia at the Rio Paralympics. I placed 5th overall with less than a year after sitting in a kayak.
How have you shown commitment to your dream?
My journey has been challenging. I had never heard of any of my conditions, let alone thought that one day they would impact me before I became sick. Accepting my changed abilities, my inability to return to school, dealing with the isolation of living with a chronic illness and disability and the abandonment of all the people I had once considered friends was not easy. To this day I continue with rehab in an attempt to maintain as much function as possible to be able to pursue my dream.
When I was selected to the Australian Paracanoe Team. things changed dramatically. It was no longer just about paddling around the island and having fun – it became a mission to get stronger and faster. This includes early mornings, challenging gym sessions and relocating to the Gold Coast for Rio. All of this meant that I put my life at home on hold. I have made many sacrifices but they’ve all been definitely worthwhile.
What challenges do you face?
One of the major challenges I face in terms of Paracanoe is the lack of other competitive paracanoe athletes in my club, let alone state and the experienced support and equipment to assist in reaching my goals.
Being a newer sport, there is not a lot of involvement or pathways established yet to assist athletes in South Australia. Before me, my coach had not previously been involved with any other para athletes and was new to coaching.
Another challenge is definitely funding.
How will you use the grant?
I will use the grant money to assist in training, travel and equipment. I also want to encourage other disabled females to get involved in this great sport.
How do you plan to give back?
I plan to continue giving back to the community by engaging with others through community and school talks. By sharing my story, along with the opportunities I have taken up, I hope to continue inspiring and encouraging people to get involved with society, whether it be through sport, volunteering or becoming a leader.
In terms of the future of Paracanoe, I will continue working with SASI and Canoe SA to develop and implement pathways and opportunities for individuals living with a disability to get involved.