Condon inspiring a change of perspective on disability
WHEN there's a will, there's a way.
The saying may seem like a cliche, but to Coffs Harbour's Tristin Condon, nothing has ever resonated so clearly.
Growing up with cerebral palsy, there was very little Condon didn't try.
From tap dancing to motorbike riding, horse riding and everything in between, disability was never going to hold him back.
"I used to flip my motorbike just about every time I got on it," Condon said, reflecting on his childhood.
"When I was younger, my parents never said to me 'you can't do that'. They always found a way for me to try things."
Now, as a 31-year-old, Condon's growing list of achievements include completing the Bridge to Brisbane with his two walking sticks in 2012 and most recently, placing second in the Virtual Rowing World Championships.
"I came into para rowing after the Bridge to Brisbane because I needed something big to focus on. My body was under severe distress because I actually had three severely herniated discs. At the time I couldn't mobilise with my sticks so I picked up rowing," he said.
The idea may seem next to impossible to others in his position, but it is sport and exercise that has helped Condon find his way in life.
"I had some great influences at school. Some of the teachers helped me out and let me get involved in sport," he said.
"I started as an assistant coach for the rugby team and then helped out with the swimming and water polo sides as well."
While Condon couldn't join in, he made the most of his disability by encouraging members of the team to keep on going.
"I always made sure I was visible to the guys out there doing some push ups or chin ups in front of them because I always had a pretty strong upper body," he said.
"I found that motivated them and it helped me develop some wonderful friendships."
While Condon has had some good influences, some of his darkest moments came during his time in school.
"There were teachers in school who felt I didn't belong. My parents fought really hard to get me to a normal school, but they didn't always treat me the same way," he said.
"There were times where I thought about ending it. I was actually subjected to regular IQ tests because they were hoping there might have a reason for me to not be there.
"But I have always had above average intelligence. I've had a lot of obstacles to overcome but thankfully I've had some really good people that have helped me through those tough times."
To give back, Condon takes part in initiatives like the 10,000 Push-ups and Beyond Challenge, where he has been doing over 100 push-ups every day to raise awareness for others struggling with disability, with funds going to Variety Queensland.
"This is my second push up challenge after doing one last year. I've been very fortunate to be able to lead the challenge," he said.
"It helps raise awareness for some of the difficulties these kids with disabilities are facing.
"We're trying to break down barriers within the community and get more interaction between these kids and others in the community."
Condon is living in Coffs Harbour with his wife Belinda, who he met while rowing in Brisbane and had asked for her hand in marriage just three weeks later.
"I was really fortunate to get into rowing and one thing led to another. There's a vanity aspect to rowing which helped because normally you have to get around with your shirt off," he said.
"With that confidence I jumped on a dating app, met Belinda and the rest was history."
Condon said his ultimate goal is to help people to normalise the struggles we all face and to be able to discuss them with those around us and leave labels behind.
"People can help by donating to Variety but they can also take a video of themselves doing a quick set of an exercise. It doesn't have to be push ups, it can be any kind of exercise," he said.
"The kids love to see them and it helps bring smiles to their faces."