Before a big race, former Paralympian Katrina Webb OAM, remembers the sleepless nights.
The unease didn’t emanate from the thought of racing in front of a large crowd but from the thought of the people at home and the supporters that an athlete wants to do well for.
“You need to know how to turn o all your thinking, and to silence it,” Ms Webb said.
Ms Webb received her first gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games for the 100 metres and 200 metres sprints. At that point, she had only been involved in sports for a year, and says that despite her success, it wasn’t an easy decision for her to attend the games.
“I was an able-bodied netball player. I knew since I was three years old that there was something wrong with me, but I didn’t know that it was called cerebral palsy and I didn’t like that part about myself so I did everything to try and hide it,” she said.
“I just had to deal with a lot of stuff about myself. When I went to my first paralympic games, I knew I had to be comfortable with saying I was a paralympian.”
When she arrived, she said it was a relief that there were others out there like her, as it lent her the opportunity to accept her difference and “learn to love herself”.
Ms Webb was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was the fresh recipient of an Australian Institute of Sport scholarship for excellence in netball.
But sport was “in her blood” and was something that was promoted and readily offered by her sporting family. Giving up was not an option.
“Because I put all my energy into sport, I don’t know if I would have been good at a musical instrument or in any other field. There’s not really an alternative for me,” Ms Webb said.
“It’s not so much a sport for me and not so much playing sport. I call it ‘energy management’.
Ms Webb says sport re-energises her physically and mentally and she does whatever she can to move her body because it makes her feel good.
As she progressed in her career, she found the assistance and guidance of sports psychologists invaluable. It was through this that she found ways to perform better at a high level as an athlete and attain the “gold medal mindset” which she says, is a whole series of different tools.
“It’s learning how to deal with unwanted thoughts and unhelpful thoughts and feelings,” she said.
“For me now, that wisdom has been an incredible gift for me, to really step out of my comfort zone, not only in sport but in so many avenues of my life. To face my fears and to just be prepared to do things that I wouldn’t have been able to do before because of my own fears and sabotages.”
“I know personally that I had the biggest challenges with myself. There will be people out there who will try to hold you back or say things, but at the end of the day it’s your own self that you will choose to listen to or not.”
Today her work revolves around inspiring other people through her words of wisdom while working as a public speaker.
She has delivered speeches for corporate clients and presented a TedX talk at Macquarie University.
Ms Webb went to university and attained qualifications in physiotherapy with, of course, the idea that she would undertake work in this field. But life has clearly had other plans for her.
“This is a gift of life experience and uniqueness. To become a speaker, that opportunity
was presented to me and I just decided to put a lot of energy into becoming good at it, which I just enjoy.”
“I had a gift, I had a story to share that people enjoy hearing.”