getback Port Macquarie therapist Anthony Mahr starting training for and competing in triathlons around three years ago. Nothing too unusual about that, except that Anthony is a totally blind athlete.
It’s hard to imagine how challenging it is to run, cycle and swim in unknown environments without being able to see where you’re going.
With quiet determination, Anthony takes it in his stride and is humble about his growing achievements. He doesn’t think his athletic journey is unusual – he’s simply loved being involved in sport since he was a child.
‘I’ve always played sport, since I was a young kid,’ Anthony says.
‘I played blind cricket, and entered into cross country events and things like that.’
He grew up in family that encouraged and included him in every activity from a young age.
‘I’ve got a younger brother and sister, so I’ve always got into doing whatever they were doing,’ Anthony says.
‘I just love sport and giving things a go.’
Anthony is very grateful for the support of his guides, who accompany him along the roads, mountain trails and waterways he competes in.
But even with a dedicated guide alongside him, there is a higher level of risk – and bravery – required for each event.
‘My NDIS funding helped me meet the right people to guide me in the triathlons,’ Anthony says.
‘But it’s always a challenge. You’ve just got to trust the person you’re with to get the right information.
‘Swimming can be tricky. We’re pretty much side by side with a surfboard cord attached around both our ankles.
‘But occasionally I’ll bump or bodysurf the guide, or vice versa!’
And there are always unpredictable elements that can derail the best laid plans and precautions.
‘The toughest cycling event was the Nationals last January,’ Anthony recalls.
‘We were coming down one of the hills in Ballarat and broke some gearing.
‘We managed to finish the race but we were a fair way behind by the time we finished!’
While he loves competing, Anthony says the social and mental health benefits of being active in the community are just as important.
He is a regular runner and volunteer at Parkrun, a weekly 5-kilometre community event in Wauchope.
‘You can run, you can walk, you can volunteer,’ Anthony explains. ‘You can just chat to people, it’s all about being social.
‘It’s about mental health and getting people out and moving on a Saturday morning.’
Anthony is now a Run Director at Parkrun, helping to organise other volunteers and equipment. It was also where he met his eventual employer, getback Port Macquarie Director and Physiotherapist Nathan Lynch.
‘I was talking to someone about how I was looking for work, and they put me on to Nathan,’ Anthony recalls.
‘I got talking to Nathan there and then sent him a resume. I had an interview and sure enough, within a week, I had a job.’
That was over three years ago, and Anthony is now part of a close-knit team at the clinic, which includes his guide dog Shadow.
‘Shadow is usually with me and the clients love him,’ Anthony says.
‘They know they can’t pat him but they admire him in the clinic.’
Anthony loves working with people and helping to bring about positive change in their lives.
‘The sense of vision that I’ve lost means that my sense of touch is better,’ Anthony explains.
‘My wife has rheumatoid arthritis so I can help with her pain as well.’
As his athletic journey continues, Anthony is building up to his holy grail – competing in an Ironman event. He’s already completed three City to Surfs in Sydney and several ultra trail events over terrain that looks particularly gruelling.
‘I’ve done everything from Parkruns to run festivals, trails and all sorts of bigger triathlons leading up to an Ironman,’ he says.
His most memorable event was the Gold Coast Marathon, with crowds of people cheering along the route, which Anthony says was ‘heaps of fun’.
Unfortunately his path to the Ironman has been slowed by Covid cancellations and some recent health concerns.
But overcoming obstacles is part of Anthony’s DNA, and it would be a brave person to bet against him reaching his next goal.
Anthony’s Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/anthonymahr703
getback Port Macquarie – Wauchope Physiotherapy & Sports Rehab Centre https://www.wauchopephysio.com.au/about-us/