30 September 2019

Two years ago, Albany’s Kenny McGonnell’s life was literally and figuratively turned upside down, when he was out on a training ride and went flying over the handlebars of his motocross bike, handed on his head damaged his T4 vertebrae and effectively lost the use of his legs.

“I was coming into a corner, trying to get in front of my mate, when I hit a section of the track and flew over my handle bars. By time I had stopped rolling, I went to sit up and didn’t have any sensation in my legs,” Kenny recalled.

For most people such an incident would have a traumatic impact on them both physically and psychologically but Kenny is not ‘most people’ and he has not let it stop him from achieving the most remarkable things.

“Strength of mind is as important as the body strength, 100 per cent. When I had the accident and tried to get up and touch my legs and couldn’t feel them and that sort of stuff, it was a weird feeling. I remember just lying there and accepting what had happened and what I had from there. I sort of got over it and was ready to go again from then.”

“From what I have seen from other people when I was in hospital, it really didn’t affect me. You could really see the pain they were going through and for me, I suppose, I didn’t have to process that. For some reason I accepted it from there, as soon as I couldn’t feel my legs. It wasn’t a sense of relief, but it was that sort of feeling. What it is, is what it is and look forward to whatever the challenges are now.”

This year on 17 October, in the beautiful Margaret River region of Western Australia, Kenny makes his long awaited Cape to Cape debut on a specially built, hi tech handcycle that was a $20,000 gift to him from the local community and guardian angel from the local coffee shop.

“I was looking at purchasing a bike and a guy in Albany, Don Perfrement, who has a coffee shop down on the water at the Albany Marina called Haz Beanz Finestkind Coffee, where we do swimming in the morning, said come down for coffee. He said ‘What do we have to do to get this bike for you? I said ‘I just have to pay a $10,000 deposit and pay the rest when it arrives in Australia. He said, ‘I will pay the deposit and fund raise the rest for you’. It was amazing and I was in total shock.”

“The fundraiser for my MTB was awesome, I have never had something like that happen before. You say thank you but how do you show your appreciation for someone doing that for you. It is amazing. When we were having the coffee, I just didn’t know what to say. I said thank you, but what can I say that is better than that. It is awesome and it has got me here, because last year we couldn’t do Cape to Cape without the bike and this year I have it. I am really excited.”

“Cape to Cape something I have wanted to do for ten years I reckon. I have heard a lot of people talking about it and doing it but I never had the chance because I lived up north for a while. The year that we went to do it, I did my back, so the boys did it for me. I got out of hospital and ended up going to Marg’s and I watched them all suffering as they came in each day and they loved it.”

Cape to Cape is a tough four days for anyone but to do it on a three wheeled hand cycle is an unbelievable and often muddy test of determination and will.

“The hand cycle is a good arm pump, it definitely gets you a burn in the arms especially on hills. But the hardest thing and the biggest challenge is that I don’t have core strength, so it is pretty much all arms. There an issue with balance when it is a bit undulating because the bike is a metre wide, so once you are on an angle you can tip out quite easily. That is probably a downfall of the bike but for everything else it is really good.”

“My swimming was a big help in adapting and it kept my arms quite strong and in good nick, so getting onto the bike was more of a natural feeling. But there are times when you have to get out of the bike and shuffle it over a log or a rock and then get back in. You do get stuck on things but you just have to get off, roll around, fall over and get mud all over you, push your bike over and climb yourself over.”

“It makes it challenging and it is definitely not easy, but I enjoy it. I would rather be out on the tracks than the road, so give me the hard stuff any day,” Kenny declared.

This year Kenny has ten mates joining him for what promises to be an adventure of a lifetime.

“They are all doing their own thing but two riders will be riding with me. They all want to do a day with me and we will work it out on the day. The two riders will be handy for those times where I have to climb over stuff and get stuck. I have snapped a few chains in some boggy areas and hills and stuff so they have to work pretty hard to get me back on track and pushing me out.”

“So I am looking forward to us all getting together and getting out there giving each other shit. It was always Cape to Cape that we wanted to do and now I have a bike I am ready to go,” he said.