Curtis McGrath

Curtis McGrath

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Meet Curtis

Coffees and bug spray in hand, Signet is starting the day early riverside with Aussie paracanoe champion and decorated ANZAC, Curtis McGrath. When prompted to talk about his life, the fourteen-time paracanoe gold medallist jokes - "Well, I lost my legs and now I paddle a bit", which for those who are familiar with Curtis' heroic story, is a significantly humble summary. McGrath's sense of humour and positive mindset was always prevalent as we went on to chat about his experiences, his preparations to compete in 2024 and the endurance of the ANZAC spirit.

On August 23rd 2012, while serving in Afghanistan as a Sapper (Engineer) for the Australian Army, Curtis McGrath stepped on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device), forever changing the course of his life. He suffered multiple injuries from the explosion, most notably the loss of his left leg below the knee and his right leg at the knee. Still covered in blood, dust and debris, McGrath sensed the shock of the situation hitting his squad and tried to reassure his friends that he was ok. In the true spirit of the ANZACS and with a dose of dry humour, he joked that he was going to the Paralympics and that the bomb blast had put to waste a perfectly good pair of combat boots that he could no longer wear...

“As the guys carried me along on the stretcher… I knew my legs weren't coming back.”

“The ANZAC spirit is about coming together to help each other. As the guys carried me along on the stretcher… I knew my legs weren't coming back. I could see them around me, and they were emotionally hurting. I felt that I could say something that could give them a bit of hope, not a promise that I would be ok, just some hope, so I said, 'I'll be fine, I'll just go to the Paralympics...but it won't be in the Green and Gold, it'll be in the Black and White'. They were patriotic Aussies and there was always a bit of banter with me originally being from New Zealand. They responded with 'suppose you can walk to the rescue chopper then!' <laugh>. Aussie or Kiwi, we looked after each other and that's what being an ANZAC is all about.”

Upon returning to his home in Queensland, McGrath was faced with the challenge of rebuilding his life. From surgery to rehab and taking his first steps with prosthetics, the loss of his legs didn't diminish his spirit. He decided to make good on the promise he had made with his friends and tried several sports before landing on the Paracanoe.

“I didn't always dream of trying to be a paracanoe World Champion, it was something that came out of the situation, the cards that I was dealt. I realised that my legs weren't coming back and saw the opportunity to become an athlete.”

Although born a Kiwi, McGrath lived in Australia, and it was Australia that really supported him on his journey in sport. He wanted to give back to the home he chose and decided he would try and don the Green and Gold.

“I chose to represent Australia because I knew the country, the team and the system would support me in order to achieve my dreams. That's what made me feel at home and I feel privileged and honoured to have that opportunity. I have connections to both sides of the ditch, and I love each of them in their own way, but for me and my paddling career and in my sporting life, it's going to be the Green and Gold.”

Just 18 months after his accident, McGrath claimed the title of World Champion at the World Sprint Canoe Championships in Moscow, Russia, marking the beginning of his professional paracanoe journey.

“It all started when I first crossed that line and realised it was possible.”

“Winning my first World Championship gold in Moscow, in a 200-metre canoe event was the moment for me that I realised, 'Man I could actually do this, this is a reality now.' I loved every moment, and I reckon I'd love all of it over and over again. Here I am 10 years later, it's been a heck of a trip, but at the same time, it all started when I first crossed that line and realised it was possible.”

In the decade since, McGrath has gone on to win fourteen gold medals across multiple competitions. He became the first Australian ever to secure gold in the paracanoe event at Rio in 2016 and followed that up four years later in Tokyo, where he defended his title and claimed another gold in the 200 metres.

Despite his incredible achievements, McGrath remains grounded and humble, acknowledging the support of those around him to be fundamental in his success.

“I am now in a fortunate position where I can support others... ”

“I'm incredibly grateful for the support that I get from those around me. Because of them, I am now in a fortunate position where I can support others and help them achieve their goals too.”

As McGrath gears up for 2024, he embraces a new role as co-captain of the Australian team. “This time around is going to be about leadership, mentoring, supporting the rest of the squad and the wider team,” he notes, emphasising the importance of giving back and fostering a sense of camaraderie within the Australian team.

“It's a nice feeling to have an Aussie company backing you up. I saw what Signet had done in the past and the athletes they had supported. I started to understand why a packaging company would want to support Australian Athletes. It's not about cardboard boxes, it's about helping people compete and reach their dreams. Signet's support means a lot to me.”

Signet is proud to support Curtis McGrath as a member of Team Signet. Join us as we get behind him, the rest of the team, and over 60,000 Aussie businesses all chasing their own dreams.

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