'I’ve never really been able to let go of it. I’ve always loved it and I know I’m not finished'
It’s been seven long years since Australian Paralympic champion Kelly Cartwright stepped onto a track.
In that time, she competed for her nation in a totally different sport, had two kids and even made history as the first pregnant person with an impairment to appear on television series, Dancing With The Stars.
And now, Cartwright is ready to own the track once again.
“It’s been on my mind the whole time, the whole seven years. It’s why I never officially retired from athletics,” the long jump star said.
“I’ve never really been able to let go of it. I’ve always loved it and I know I’m not finished.”
Having switched focus from Para athletics to Para powerlifting after sustaining a permanent ankle injury after London 2012, Cartwright is taking each training session as it comes, but is already dreaming of jumping at Tokyo 2020.
“I’ve only been running for a few weeks now but being back, it’s actually been amazing. I’m nowhere near my peak fitness, and I don’t know if it’s the time I’ve had off, or having two kids, but I’m absolutely stronger mentally than I’ve ever been."
“Tokyo is obviously a big if, and there is a lot of work to do, but it’s not totally out of the question."
After quickly rising the ranks of Australia’s Para powerlifting circuit, Cartwright earned the right to wear the green and gold at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
But despite her success, she acknowledges that when it comes to sport, her first love will always triumph.
“After I had [my child] Max, it was too close to Rio, and then with time frame between having Charley and when the Games were supposed to be, it made sense for me to focus on powerlifting. But with the Paralympics being delayed, now is the perfect time for me to get back into what I love.”
“I love being able to run with one leg. Sometimes its difficult to do something in the gym but it makes me feel powerful. I’ve always been much more competitive in athletics than powerlifting too.”
Under the tutelage of coach Tim Matthews, Cartwright has a strategy in place to get her in the best shape physically for when domestic and international competitions resume once again.
“I’m taking each month as it comes. I need to remember it has been seven years, and I still have the same ankle injury - it will never be better, and the damage is done but I want to give this a real try."
"Tim has been amazing. He’s always been the same as me - never given up hope and had it in the back of his mind too, that I’d come back. I couldn’t ask for a better coach and mentor."
The first thing for Cartwright, is to get herself into best shape on the track.
“I’m literally just putting in the work on the track and working with a leg maker closet in Melbourne, and doing a lot of strength work.“
"It will be at least another three weeks before I’m jumping but my ankle is pulling up better than expected, and it’s obvious that I’m moving in the right direction."
"I’m really looking forward to just getting back to competition.”