Soldier, champion, great Australian – an extraordinary story of triumph over tragedy.
In 2012, combat engineer Curtis McGrath was serving in the Australian army in Afghanistan when, in the line of duty, he stepped on a mine. Instantly, both his legs were blown off. Still conscious but aware that he would bleed out and die within minutes, McGrath, as the unit’s chief first-aid officer, directed his comrades to apply tourniquets and administer an IV and morphine. Then, as he was stretchered to a helicopter, fearing he would never see his family again, he joked that he planned to become a Paralympian.
Just months later, he was up and walking on prosthetic legs, motivated by the opportunity to march with his unit during their welcome home ceremony. Then he took up kayaking and the sport gave him a new sense of purpose. In 2013, he and his father, Paul, paddled 1,000 kilometres from Sydney to Queensland to raise funds for Mates4Mates, which supports current and former Defence Force members who have suffered physical or psychological wounds as a result of their service. A year later, McGrath captained the Australian team at the inaugural Invictus Games in London, founded by Prince Harry for wounded, injured or ill veterans. Within four years of his injury, McGrath had won gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in the K1 200-metre KL2 Paracanoe event.
Now an ambassador for the Invictus Games and passionate about the healing power of sport, McGrath is an 8-time World Champion gold medallist with his eye on the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. At last he’s ready to tell his extraordinary story.