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Winning gold against the odds

Empowered by family support, track cyclist Scott McGrory overcame personal tragedy to win gold against the odds at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

“Shortly before the Olympic Games, we had a family tragedy which was incredibly difficult to process and try get through. If it wasn’t for the support of my family and friendship group, I wouldn’t have been able to make it to the race, let alone come home with the gold,” Scott remembers.

For Scott and his wife, Donna, tragedy struck when their 11-week-old son Alexander died of a rare heart condition, 10 weeks before the Olympics.

Adding to this trauma, Scott’s track cycling partner, Brett Aitken, was also coping with extraordinary stress as his two-year-old daughter, Ashli, was seriously ill with Rett Syndrome, a development disorder, during the same crucial lead-up period.

The most instrumental person in my success was my wife, Donna, she was the one to motivate me and support me to go to that next stage

Not surprisingly, these tragedies impacted so heavily on Scott and Brett’s preparation for their biggest sporting challenge that they both came close to throwing in the towel and giving up.

“The most instrumental person in my success was my wife, Donna, she was the one to motivate me and support me to go to that next stage,” Scott says.

Having his wife’s steadfast support through this extremely testing time was crucial for Scott and ultimately changed the outcome of his career.

"Donna talked me into at least trying to go on. Her reasoning was that we had lost so much already, if we gave up on the Olympics as well, we'd have nothing."

It was this family support combined with lessons learnt in the 12 years between competing in the Olympics that helped propel Scott, together with his cycling partner Brett Aitken, onto winning the Madison gold medal at Sydney’s Dunc Gray Velodrome in 2000.

“I’m very fortunate to have been to two Olympic Games, however they were separated by 12 years and vastly different approaches,” he says.

“At the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, I was only an 18-year-old kid - I didn’t really understand the process needed to be successful and I took a really short-term approach.

“However, heading into the Sydney Olympic Games, I understood that long-term planning was the key to success.

“The long-term approach with the solid support network was the one that yielded the result.”

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