Paraplegic since an accident in his late teens, David has some mobility in his legs, but mostly relies on a wheelchair.
“I’d been involved in wheelchair basketball and tennis for years,” says David.
That led to an interest, and later a career, building customised wheelchairs.
In 2007, an introduction to sports scientist and para-triathlete, Darron Shields, sparked David’s interest in the sport of handcycling. A handcycle is a recumbent bike, powered by the hands and torso, rather than the legs.
“It requires a lot of upper body strength,” David explains.
“Hands, wrists, shoulders, torso – and you really need to build up your core strength.”
“Once people saw me cycling, they kept saying, ‘You need to talk to Denis at the gym!’”
Working one-on-one with gym instructor, Denis, the two developed a program designed specifically to suit David’s needs, abilities and disability.
David’s particular interest was the time-trial event, requiring him to cycle 20-30km at speeds exceeding 30km per hour.
“Denis and I worked together to build my strength and endurance,” says David, noting that his trainer was soon astounded at the number of repetitions he could sustain on the gym’s Smith (weight-lifting) machine.
“Denis really motivated me!” he says.
In his first attempt at the Australian Para-Cycling Road Championships, David came 5th in the H3 Time Trial event. It was an impressive effort for someone new to the sport, but he was intent on improving.
Continuing his gym workouts, David returned the next year and placed fourth, moving up to third and second placings in subsequent years. In 2010 he missed qualifying for a place in the World Championships by a whisker.
“Denis and The Range Gym basically got me from 5th to 2nd in the National Championships in four years,” says David, failing to acknowledge his own monumental commitment and determination!
No doubt, David would have gone on to win the nationals and compete internationally – perhaps even at the London Paralympics. But, by 2010, advances in technology made competing at an elite level prohibitively expensive.
“I’d been building handcycles with aluminium,” says David, “but when carbon fibre came in, the cost of racing bikes skyrocketed.”
With his wife and three children as priorities, David decided if he couldn’t compete at the level he wanted to, he’d retire from competitive sport and continue cycling for fun and fitness.
“Cycling is good for my circulation – it keeps my blood flowing freely,” he explains.
“And the cycling and gym workouts help maintain my mobility. It keeps the inflammation and arthritis in check.”
“What do they say?” says David, “Use it or lose it!”
And are there other benefits?
“For mental well-being, for sure!” he says, “More than anything.”
While no longer involved in competitive sport, David maintains his interest in the gym and now serves on the committee.
“The gym keeps me fit, but, mostly, I stick around for the people,” he says.
“It’s a great community.”
Meanwhile, David introduced his trainer, Denis, to cycling.
“Denis had always been a runner, but he had a knee injury, so I said, ‘Why not get a bike?’”
David and Denis became a familiar sight as they rocketed around the Mapleton streets in the early mornings.
“I loved it,” says David, “because I could beat him!”
“Now, he beats me!” he laments.
“The master has become the pupil!”
“I might give lawn bowls a go,” he muses.
Basketball, tennis, cycling, weight-lifting, rowing, lawn bowls; despite his disability, it seems there’s not much David can’t do!
“I can’t run,” he grins, “but I always say, if there was a bull chasing me I’d give it my best shot!”