BEN Austin’s left arm was amputated above the elbow when he was just two weeks old, following complications at birth.
But that did not stop him from becoming a formidable swim star.
The Order of Australia recipient has represented his country in the pool since 1999 and yesterday he shared his story with the region’s youth.
Speaking at headspace Tamworth, the Paralympic medallist encouraged them to support each other through life’s challenges.
“I started off by having to overcome my physical limitation,” he said.
“But, really, it’s more about learning about your mental capabilities and limitations of the mind and how to overcome them.”
Mr Austin, a fierce competitor, said he was often plagued by self-doubt and a fear of failure.
“You’re standing on the blocks in a foreign country in front of 25,000 people, after four years of hard work, and your mind can eat you alive before you even race. Decide the result before you do it,” he said.
“It’s all about learning how to prepare and learning how to trust yourself. Listen to your own body and voice within.”
The 33-year-old has amassed an impressive swag of medals, which he brought along to show the kids.
From humble beginnings growing up in Wellington, near Dubbo, Mr Austin went on to win one silver and two bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games, followed by two gold, three silver and one bronze at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games.
He won another gold in Beijing in 2008 and has also had success in the pool at Commonwealth Games level in Manchester, Melbourne and Delhi.