NDIA employee recalls Paralympics glory

Lyn Lepore of Ballajura.Picture: David Baylis
Lyn Lepore of Ballajura.Picture: David Baylis

NATIONAL Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) employee Lyn Lepore remembers winning a cycling gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics like it was yesterday.

Sixteen years later, the visually impaired Ballajura resident said she was still in disbelief at how she and teammate Lynette Nixon won.

“I didn’t think we were winning,” she said.

“We had another Australian team competing with us and, at the start, they were out in front but at some stage they must have returned to the pack and I didn’t realise.

“Thinking the other Australian team was in front, we didn’t chase them.

“I thought we were just sitting comfortably in the pack then all of a sudden we broke away and our coach told us in our ear piece we were going for gold.

“I said to Lyn (Nixon) ‘are we going for gold?’

“She replied, ‘Put your hands up in the air, we’re coming across the line.’

“It was an amazing feeling,” Lepore said.

“Standing there on the podium, listening to the Australian national anthem, it was so exciting.”

Suffering from degenerative genetic eye condition Retinitis Pigmentosa, Lepore took up cycling at the age of 29.

“A recreation officer from the Association for the Blind (now Visibility Inc.) first introduced me to cycling,” she said.

“I had water skied with them so I thought why not, but honestly the first time I rode around the velodrome I hated it.

“I did four laps on the tandem with one of the dads and had to get off.”

Persevering with the sport, Lepore went on to cycle at international level for 10 years, first competing in the Paralympics in 1996 at Atlanta.

“Training was gruelling,” she said.

“Every week we spent at least three days in the gym and cycled 700km.”

At the Sydney Paralympics, Lepore also took home silver and bronze medals in the 1km time trial tandem and the individual pursuit.

“Before I started cycling I had low self-esteem, but once I started I found there was a lot I could do and there was so much value in that,” she said.

“Cycling helped me to complete my (Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science) degree.

“It’s just opened up a whole new world and I’ve achieved so much.”

Lepore said her achievements influenced her role as a support coordinator at the NDIA in Midland.

“Even in my NDIA role, when I go to participants I feel I motivate them,” she said.

“They see what I can do, and say, ‘If you can do it, I can too’.

“It’s lovely to feel I can inspire them in some way.”

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), administered by the NDIA, provides disability support based around a person’s goals, aspirations and needs.

The existing Perth Hills NDIS trial site will be expanded from January 1 to cover the areas of Northam, York, Toodyay, Chittering, Bayswater and Bassendean.