Extraordinary person Para cyclist Kate Horan
The first time all three of Kate Horan’s sons saw her race was also the last time she raced, a culmination of all she had achieved in 17 years as a Para athlete at an international level, first as a champion track runner and then as a Para cyclist.
At 44, the Wellingtonian was ready to give up the punishing training and the long hours away from her boys, aged 8, 22 and 27. But she didn’t actually know she was done until she had been to the qualifying trials for the world champs – and for the first time, she didn’t love the buzz of the race.
“I choked with nerves,“ she says. “I’ve been to three Paralympic Games and I’ve never let nerves get the better of me. After I’d finished racing, I just didn’t enjoy it.”
Kate had felt for some time that she was ready to spend more time with her family.
“You make so many sacrifices in sport, especially when you have a family, and that’s been the duration of my career – constantly making sacrifices around being a mum and the guilt that goes with that. And that plays on your mind constantly.”
Kate won a silver medal in the 200-metre T44 at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. The running took a toll on her body, so she switched to Para cycling – and won four world championship titles.
She leaves Para sport a far more confident person, proud of being an amputee, and proud to have represented her country so well.
“[Before I found Para sport] I always thought that people looked at me and maybe felt sorry for me: ‘Oh, that poor girl, she’s only got one leg.’ I never thought that they might’ve looked and gone, ‘Oh wow, that’s cool.’ I was uncomfortable about it. I just wanted to be so-called ‘normal’. I just wanted to fit in. When I got involved with Paralympic sport, I became a proud amputee and a proud Paralympian. I just loved that.”
For the past two years Kate has shared her passion and enthusiasm with disabled children as a sport coordinator with the charity dsport (previously known as Parafed Wellington).
“I get to just have fun with kids,“ she says. “The girls that might be missing a leg, we share secrets about our legs and who’s got the coolest prosthetic leg and how many prosthetic legs we’ve got, all that sort of thing. That’s really, really cool.”
Dsport manager Catriona McBean, a co-worker and close friend, says Horan is incredibly dedicated to her work, in the same way that she has given her all to her sporting career.
“For Kate, being an athlete is part of her DNA. It’s part of her. It’s not all of her, but it’s definitely part of her, and she’s worked through how to balance her competition and her athletic requirements with having a family and having a life outside of sport.”
Kate’s son Jared Horan, 22, does not remember a time when his mum was not immersed in sport.
“She is probably the most determined person that I know,” he says. “She pushes herself beyond what anyone else would, beyond what a normal body should be able to do. I remember when mum was working towards going to Beijing and how stressed out she was. And a lot of the time she wouldn’t be home, and she’d have to have everything all organised for us when we got home, make sure babysitters and everything else was in place. And then getting home, she would just be absolutely knackered.”
Horan is looking forward to having her weekends and evenings to herself, to explore the country and spend time with her children and granddaughter.
“There’s so much I want to do. I want to run for fun. I want to climb mountains. I want to get a caravan and I want to go and do things and see things. And I want to have a few wines at night and I want to eat crap food and I don’t want to feel guilty. I just want to have some normality and just be a mum. I’m really looking forward to doing that.”
Story created by Tower Insurance.
Find out the other Extraordinary person stories on Corrie Robinson, Cody Everson, Emma Foy, Scott Martlew, and Neelam O’Neill.