Private Whittington dreams of becoming top Paralympian
TWO years ago, Private Nathan Whittington's life changed forever when he fell off the back of a jet ski which was towing a water skier in Townsville.
As he fell, the 18-year-old's foot became tangled in the jet ski's tow rope.
Whittington says he can remember being under water, the rope being pulled off like it had loosened, and floating to the surface thinking something was not right.
"My mate came over, and asked me what was wrong. I said, 'I don't know, my ankle's a bit sore', and lifted my foot out of the water. He realised before I did that my foot was gone," Whittington said.
Rather than have the amputation just above his ankle, he elected to have it done half way up his calf so it would be easier to walk on a prosthetic limb.
Whittington stunned the medical experts with the speed of his recovery.
Within nine days of the accident, he had begun his own rehabilitation program and was doing leg-raises with 5kg weights on his stump, as well as push-ups and dips.
"People were telling me I had to slow down, but there was no point sitting around on the bed," he said.
"I looked at it thinking this is who I am now and I can't change that."
Whittington isn't now just walking, he is training as a sprinter under coach Brett Robinson at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra and has set a target of competing in the 2106 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Earlier this month he set a new personal best of 13.09 in the 100m sprint to win gold at the Wounded Warrior Games - a US-run international multi-sport event for wounded, injured and ill service personnel.
"The highlight of my trip was standing on the podium with the Australian flag wrapped around my shoulders receiving my gold medal," Whittington said.
"It's made me so hungry to succeed in the sport and to represent my country on a much bigger stage."
Robinson said he had no doubt his wounded warrior would do just that.
"When I met Nathan I probably wouldn't have described him as an athlete," Robinson said.
"Now he has changed so much mentally and physically - he's just got that attitude that he wants to always do better."