MICHAEL MILTON - AUSTRALIAN SPORT'S MAN FOR ALL SEASONS
From Hanson Media Group in Beijing
TRIATHLON, September 10: One of Australia's most inspirational athletes, Michael Milton continues to push his body beyond the limits and in Beijing yesterday the six-time Paralympian was in the thick of the action again - just where he likes it.
As Paratriathletes from all over the world converged on the 2008 Olympic city for the Dextro Energy ITU Triathlon World Championships, Milton continued on his amazing journey not just in elite sport but for survival.
Milton, now 38, first graced the international sporting stage as a 14-year-old at the 1988 Winter Paralympic Games in Innsbruck and has accumulated six Paralympic gold medals in a celebrated ski racing career spanning two decades. He is also Australia's fastest ever downhill skier.
After retiring from ski racing Milton turned his attention to cycling in 2006 and fought back from cancer to contest his first Paralympic Summer Games in Beijing in 2008.
He was back on the same course yesterday reliving his Paralympic memories and participating in his first Paratriathlon World Championships.
The man who lost his leg to bone cancer as a nine-year-old revealed in 2007 he had once again been diagnosed with cancer and had a six centimetre tumor removed from his oesophagus.
Milton was named as one of 18 athletes in the Paralympic Cycling Team to compete in Beijing - his sixth Paralympic Games and his first as a summer athlete - just 12 months since chemotherapy, radiotherapy and major surgery to contest the 1km Time Trial and the 300m Individual Pursuit on the track and the 60.5km Road Race.
Now three years on, Australian sport's man for all seasons, continues to compete at the elite level of sport and continues to inspire.
Yesterday, Milton again pushed his body for just over an hour-and-a-half to finish fourth in his Tri-2 class over the 750m swim, 20km bike and five kilometre run course - the only competitor in the field to complete the run on crutches - in a split time of 29 minutes 51 seconds.
"I am unable to fit a prosthesis to my leg so I have no alternative but to use my crutches," said Milton, competing in only his fourth Paratriathlon, a sport the ITU is confident will be part of the Paralympic program in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
"But overall it was a five minute personal best for me and the bike leg was just over 22 kilometres so I was happy with the performance.
"My bike is my strength and it was good that it was the same course as I competed on here three years ago. But Paratriathlon is a lot of fun and I guess this is just the start for me.
"Give it another 12 months and I could be pushing for the podium."
But Milton, who has an extraordinary ability to put himself "in the zone" also revealed he has different motivations to other athletes.
"My motivation is my health," said Milton, "I still suffer from fatigue post my cancer opertation so I have a different motivation to other people. Surviving is what drives me on to do what I do and I find as long as I keep working hard the better I feel.
"And I get inspired by anyone who trains and competes at the highest level."
Rio de Janeiro may well be beyond Michael Milton, who will be 43 when the 2016 Paralympic Games roll around - but there is no doubt his presence continues to inspire a generation of Australians who still marvel at his amazing tenacity and ability to push himself beyond the limits.