Ironman Pete Jacobs helps Australia’s John Maclean to realise dream of one day racing Nepean Triathlon with both feet on the ground…

John Maclean with 2012 Ironman World Champion Pete Jacobs [photo: courtesy Pete Jacobs]

Since he was a little boy looking out the window of his classroom in Western Sydney, the soon-to-be 47-year-old (May 27) John Maclean has dreamed of being an athlete and playing professional rugby.

By the time Maclean reached the age of 22, he was a reserve-grade player for the precursor to the Australian National Rugby League – the New South Wales Rugby League, as well a burgeoning triathlete.

Those dreams were thought to have been shattered on June 27, 1988, when Maclean was struck from behind by an eight-ton truck while on the road training for the upcoming Nepean Triathlon on his bicycle. The collision left Maclean with a broken back, pelvis and right arm. From that moment on, Maclean was rendered a paraplegic.

That is where this story begins.

From a moment in time when some would give up and fall, Maclean picked himself up – again, and again, and again. His determination undaunted, his resolve unwavering and his competitive fire burning more intense than ever, Maclean began to train, to compete, to win.

His first stop was a return to Nepean in 1994 where he became Australia’s first paraplegic triathlete. He then became the first person in a wheelchair to complete the Ironman World Championship in Kona, and the first to swim the treacherous English Channel — not once, but twice (1995, 1998). He even trained with the national wheelchair basketball team in 1995 as they prepared for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

The first non-US citizen and first paraplegic athlete to be inducted into the Ironman Hall of Fame returned to Kona twice more in back-to-back years (1996-97) and became the first paraplegic to complete the course before the cut-off time for able-bodied competitors in the latter year.

He has participated in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, took part in the Ultraman endurance challenge, and Maclean even represented his country at both the Olympic Games and Paralympics in 2000 before winning a silver medal in rowing at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.

Winner of the Order of Australia Medal for his service to sport as a triathlete and swimmer, Maclean is the first Australian person to participate in an Olympic, Paralympic or world championship competition in five separate sports. He has been immortalised in film and in books, and has starred alongside global sporting icons Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Usain Bolt and Nadia Comaneci in a 2008 Super Bowl advertisement for Gatorade.

“I thought a door had closed, but in actual fact all it did was open a different door as a wheelchair athlete,” Maclean told TriRadar. “Now there is an opportunity to get back to where I used to be which is the ultimate dream.”

The ultimate dream Maclean speaks of is finishing what he started — to race Nepean, Australia’s oldest continuing triathlon — out of the wheelchair and on his own two feet. With the help of Neurophysicist Ken Ware, founder of Neurotricional Sciences, whom he met through mutual friend and 2012 Ironman World Champion Pete Jacobs, Maclean is now walking.

“John’s progress is nothing out of the ordinary in regards to Ken’s treatment,” said Jacobs, who had sought treatment from Ware himself to alleviate nagging hip pain. “Ken sees responses daily that lead to the type of progress John has had. John sets very big goals and is very clearly driven to those goals with motivation and focus that few have and that has sped up his overall progress.”

Jacobs explained to TriRadar that within days of seeing Ware, he had learned a lot about the body through Ware’s teachings and also completely removed the pain through his treatment.

“I understood this treatment could help John with his constant pain, his shoulder problem, and possibly help him walk again,” said Jacobs. “It was just good timing that John was visiting Noosa just after I’d seen Ken and I was able to convince John that this really does work despite sounding completely out of the box and unheard of.”

According to Jacobs, that while Ware treats all patients the same since everybody has the same underlying makeup, John’s was slightly different.

“John became a special case because of his circumstances, being a partial paraplegic, which meant some signals were able to get through and Ken was able to exploit those small pathways and create new, much larger ones relatively quickly, which meant obvious results, quickly,” he said. “There is no doubt John will complete this goal. He is an amazingly talented and strong individual, and he will keep progressing with his abilities between now and then.”

For Maclean founder of the John Maclean Foundation, which assists wheelchair users under the age of 18, Jacobs’ introduction to Ware has opened the door to a world of further possibilities and adventures.

“I’m really excited and thankful to Pete, as the one guy that made this happen is Ken Ware,” said Maclean. “He got me to think differently and act differently and it all created a different result. By using his ‘Ware K Tremor’ therapy I have been given a second chance and it’s my intention to finish what I started and complete the Nepean on my feet.

So, on October 26, a full 26 years after the incident that almost left him wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life, Maclean will set out to complete the 1km swim, 30km bike ride and 10km run.

“I should have been dead 26 years ago,” said Maclean. ”So, I am trying to make the most out of life for not just me, but all of us.

“I have a new bike from the guys at Panther Cycles in Penrith with components from Shimano, and I covered half the distance on the bike in training which has been a challenge,” he said. “I have covered almost half the distance walking, but I believe in my mind I can do it. I feel that I can do it today.

“I don’t see myself as being any different than anyone else. I’ve always wanted to be seen as an equal, but the biggest joy in life is having balance. Giving back to my family, giving back to the community, accepting new challenges and meeting new friends, and most importantly, being able to literally pick my son up from school. That’s how I judge whether or not my life is successful.

“Life is amazing,” he concluded. “It’s like an ice cream store with thousands of flavours and I want to try each and every one.”

John Maclean’s story as featured on 60 Minutes: No Limits (viewing may be restricted to regions outside of Australia/New Zealand). To watch via the 60 Minutes website CLICK HERE