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Inosi Bulimairewa taught himself to throw a javelin by watching YouTube videos.
- Mr Bulimairewa moved to Alice Springs in 2011 after meeting his wife in the 2008 Arafura Games
- In 2012, he was fitted with a prosthetic leg — after spending 12 years with just crutches
- Mr Bulimairewa later became the first prosthetics and orthotics technician in Central Australia
After just two years of training and without a coach, the Alice Springs man has qualified for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo this year.
“I’m already qualified for the Paralympic Games, but my target is to throw 50m and I’m still working on that,” he said.
“My personal best is 49.5m.”
Mr Bulimairewa is no stranger to a challenge.
Born in Fiji, Mr Bulimairewa’s family were sugar cane farmers.
He had an active childhood, but at 11 developed bone cancer and his left leg was amputated above the knee.
“I used to play rugby, soccer and running — I was pretty good at running,” Mr Bulimairewa said.
“The freedom of sports has been totally taken away from me.”
Mr Bulimairewa moved to Central Australia in 2011 after meeting his wife while representing Fiji in swimming at the 2008 Arafura Games.
“It’s pretty awesome here — it’s just a nice quiet place,” Mr Bulimairewa said.
“Everything is easy to find and go places, and the scenery here is so amazing.
“Reminds me of back home.”
It wasn’t until 2012, when he was 23 and living in Alice Springs, that Mr Bulimairewa was finally fitted with a prosthetic leg — and it was simple things he was most looking forward to.
“All that I wanted to do was walk around shopping, that was one of the hardest things for me when I was using crutches was to hold a plastic bag with crutches,” he said.
“If the bag was heavy it would just rip.”
‘You should try javelin’
Using the crutches to get around for 12 years, though, helped Mr Bulimairewa develop the strong upper body strength he needed to throw a javelin.
About two years ago, Mr Bulimairewa was at a running clinic in Sydney when a competitor suggested he give the sport a go.
“A guy who was doing the running clinic, he is one of the sprinters for 100m, he looked at me and said: ‘you’ve got strong upper body, and your running is good — you should try javelin’,” Mr Bulimairewa said.
Taking up the advice, Mr Bulimairewa came back to Alice Springs Athletics Club and picked up a javelin, teaching himself the intricacies of the sport by watching YouTube.
In preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Games, Mr Bulimairewa practices throwing three times a week and fits in another three training sessions of weights and running.
A career in prosthetics
When he’s not training, Mr Bulimairewa can be found at Alice Springs Hospital.
He was the first prosthetics and orthotics technician in Central Australia, and works to promote the rights of persons with disabilities to live to their fullest potential.
He is also a member of the amputee service, helping new amputees to walk, discussing common problems with prosthetic devices, and educating new amputees about the rehabilitation process.
“Ever since I started walking with a prosthetic leg, it just came to my head that I would love to learn how to make these,” Mr Bulimairewa said.
Mr Bulimairewa has a keen skill in manufacturing ‘Deadly Legs’; prostheses that have beautiful patterns and designed to help reduce shame amongst people that use an artificial limb.
The idea, from prosthetic leg maker Jarrod Cahir, encourages patients to wear their artificial limbs with pride and ultimately, to stay active once they return home.
Aboriginal artwork or other colours chosen by the patient are printed on fabric and then sculpted into place as the last layer of the prosthetic leg.