Deon Kenzie has been running since he was twelve years old. In summer, he would do laps around the paddock. In winter, as the days got darker, he’d run down roads lit by the headlights of his father’s car.
“That’s where I started, and I just really love it,” Deon says. “It doesn’t matter how good you get with running, it’s always challenging. You have to continuously push yourself and test your limits. It really resonated with me.”
Deon has certainly tested his limits as a 1500-metre Paralympian. Now 22, he’s represented Australia at three world championships and a Paralympic Games, winning a gold, silver and two bronze medals.
Deon was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of two, a condition which impacts his coordination impairment. It has different impacts and levels of severity and in Deon’s case, it results in hemiplegia, impacting the right side of his body.
“It hasn’t affected me to the point where I can’t go out and do day-to-day activities. I can compete as an able-bodied athlete and still train with able-bodied athletes,” Deon says.
“It’s about a one or two per cent difference where I can’t get that full explosiveness of speed out of the right side of my body. In a full training week I’m probably doing more than some able-bodied athletes. And the ones I’m not, well I keep pushing my limits so I can.”
Training for gold
It’s a running theme with Deon – constantly looking ahead to what’s next. This is what drives his commitment to a full-time training schedule. It ranges from a long run of about 20 kilometres every Sunday down to six kilometres on Friday, which he calls a rest day to give his body a break.
To keep him on form, Deon has an inner circle of healthcare providers – nutritionists, psychologist, physiologists, coaches and GPs. Once a month he visits the Tasmanian Institute of Sport for body fat, oxygen consumption and other testing to check if his fitness is progressing well.
With so many different providers to see and such a tight fitness regime to manage, keeping his information up to date is a huge challenge. It’s the main reason Deon signed up to My Health Record.
“There are so many circumstances where my physio and my doctor need to communicate and that usually takes a lot of time,” he says. “I’m making phone calls to talk to different people, so they know to send the information over. My Health Record is going to be really helpful because everything will be in one central location.
“Now, we can all see at different points along the way what’s working well, what isn’t and what we can improve for the future.”
Keeping healthy while in the zone
With competition comes travel. All of this moving around and flying means Deon is often at risk at picking up viruses.
“It actually happens quite often; you’re exposed to different viruses on a plane or in hotels,” he says. “When you’re travelling overseas to compete you really want to maximise your performance.
“So when you do get sick, it’s really important you go and see a GP so they can diagnose you quickly and you can get on the mend. Having a My Health Record is going to be great. They’ll be able to see my information and help me out straight away so I can get back to performing at my best.”
Deon is currently training for his next goal – the world championships in November 2019, where he’s hoping to snag a gold. After that, he has his sights on the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.
“It’s been an awesome journey and also a rewarding one, seeing my development over the years – from struggling with my disability to getting where I am today,” he says.
“The gold medal is the dream for every athlete. There’s no better feeling than being able to represent the green and gold and run for your country. I’ve been lucky.”