Lives Melbourne, Victoria
CV Sixth at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics and gold at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships
At age 15, Kelly Cartwright was faced with a harrowing decision: have her leg amputated and save her life, or keep her leg and take her chances.
“I’d been diagnosed with a synovial sarcoma – a rare and aggressive soft tissue cancer,” she says. “I required amputation for my best chance of survival, so I chose to have it off.”
It was a decision that would ultimately fire up her passion for healthy food and set her on the path to Paralympic glory.
Before her cancer, Cartwright was always active – so after the surgery it wasn’t long before she wanted to get moving again. “My physio googled ‘how to help an amputee run’, and my dad drew 10-metre lines outside my house so I could try and run a little bit each day.”
Cartwright’s persistence paid off when, two years later, she was discovered during a Paralympic talent search. “They identified me as an emerging athlete and that’s where I found a coach and started training,” she recalls. After a year of intense training, Cartwright found herself at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, placing sixth in the 100m. She’d come a long way.
Meals for medals
With athletic success came a new-found passion for nutrition: “Eating the right balance of food needs to be one of your main focuses as an athlete,” Cartwright says. “And it’s not just about eating healthily – it’s about eating the right foods at the right time.”
Post-workout Cartwright goes for a blend of carbohydrates and protein to max the benefits of her training. “I like to finish a weights session with a protein shake and a banana or apple.”
One of Cartwright’s favourite discoveries is the Australian Institute of Sport’s cookbook, Survival for the Fittest. “It’s the main cookbook I use,” she says. “My favourite recipe is the Moroccan beef with couscous” [see below].
MOROCCAN BEEF WITH COUSCOUSPREPARATION TIME 20 minutes
COOKING TIME 15 minutes
Canola or olive oil spray
500g lean beef, cut into strips
1 onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp finely chopped red chilli
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp turmeric
400g can crushed tomatoes
250ml (1 cup) beef stock
2 zucchini, sliced
4 large silverbeet leaves, shredded
½ cup sultanas
2 cups couscous
½ cup toasted slivered almondsMETHOD
Spray a non-stick wok or frying pan with oil and heat. Stir-fry beef in two batches over high heat for 3-4 minutes or until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add onion to the pan and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, chilli and spices and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and stock, bring to the boil and reduce the heat.
Add the zucchini, silverbeet and sultanas. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Put the couscous in a heatproof bowl and add 2 cups of boiling water. Cover tightly and stand for 3 minutes, then fluff up with a fork before serving.
Return beef to the pan to heat. Serve over couscous, sprinkled with almonds.
This is an extract from Survival for the Fittest: The Australian Institute of Sport Official Cookbook for Busy Athletes (Allen & Unwin)
London and beyond
In the lead-up to the London Paralympics, Cartwright is training seven days a week.
“These next couple of months are the most crucial for competitions and trials,” she says.
With a personal best of 16.38 seconds, a number-one world ranking in the 100m and a world record in the F42 long jump, she’s one of our best medal chances on the track and in the field.
“I never would have thought I’d be training so hard to achieve something I wanted so bad. In hospital, I didn’t have anything to look forward to. Now I have everything to look forward to – the rest of my life.”Send messages of support to Kelly Cartwright!