FRIDAY 6 JUNE, CANBERRA: A year ago even Michael Milton thought his Beijing
dreams were over. But today the skier-turned cyclist who has beaten cancer
twice learned he will compete at the Paralympic Games in China.
'I am so excited,' said Milton from his home in Canberra.
Cycling Australia today advised the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC)
of their nominated cyclists. The final team will be announced by the APC on
Friday 27 June.
Milton is confident he will be on the plane come September.
'I've earned my place on the team and I'm looking forward to competing in
'Less than twelve months ago I was so sick and everything, even life, was
so uncertain. I was shattered that my dreams of being a summer Paralympian
were over and this whole cancer thing was stretching out indefinitely
before me. But now I am going and I can't believe it.'
Milton was diagnosed with Oesophageal Cancer in July last year. He received
chemotherapy and radiation treatment then had major surgery in September to
remove his oesophagus and much of his stomach.
The treatment was successful and, a month later, Milton was back on his
bike and, by January, had returned to full training. In February he
competed in the Australian Track Cycling Championships and was officially
back in the chase for a spot on the Australian team.
'Switching from skiing to cycling was always going to be tough. It's a
physically demanding sport and you don't get that nice rest on the
chairlift after each effort,' Milton explained with a laugh.
'Training to be a cyclist was tough from the start but the last six months
have been really hard, not only for me but also my family. Much of the time
I only had enough energy to train, eat and sleep and I was often sick.'
Although Milton is in remission, he will not be considered 'cured' until he
has been cancer-free for five years.
'I've had cancer twice now, completely unrelated, and I think that makes me
more paranoid. It's certainly made me re-assess my life in the short term.
I want to make every moment count.
'The health issues associated with the surgery will be with me for a long
time, perhaps forever. With only a third of my stomach left, eating is a
real challenge, especially getting the nutrients I need to train and
compete at a high level,' Milton explained.
He will spend much of July and August training with the Australian
Paralympic Cycling Team and travel to Beijing ahead of the Paralympic Games
which start on 6 September.
'My wife Penni and I sat on our bed and cried when we found out I'd made
the team. We never really talked about it but we both knew that competing
in Beijing would somehow represent the end of the cancer battle.'
Milton said he had received amazing support from people all over the world.
'There's a very big team of people to whom I really do owe my life -
doctors, specialists, surgeons, family, friends, my sponsors Toyota and
Skins who stuck by me, my coach, even people I don't know who prayed for me
throughout the whole ordeal. I really am so grateful for everyone's
support,' said a smiling Milton.
He has even more reason to smile. Milton and wife Penni are expecting their
second child in November.
'I must be the happiest, luckiest, most excited man in the world now. I
can't stop smiling,' said Milton.
Asked about his chances of winning a medal in Beijing, Milton was
'In many ways I feel like I've already won but I'm still hungry for a
medal. I'm definitely an outside chance but that just makes me want to fight