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Para-Climber Rachel Carter Makes History for New Zealand

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter is a 35-year old New Zealander and mother of three who is competing for the first time at the World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, September, 2018.

In June 2018, shd competed as New Zealand’s first international para-climber in Ohio, USA at the Adaptive Climbing Championships.

Her performance was good enough to secure her a spot at the World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria.

Attitude, the world’s leading producer of video showcasing possibilities for people living with disabilities and chronic health, has nominated Rachel as a finalist in its Emerging Athlete Award in 2018.

After an 18-year break from climbing, Rachel started again in 2017. She drives 1.5 hours each way from her hometown of Whanganui, to reach the Vertigo Climbing Centre and training facility in Ohakune, near Mount Ruapehu.

In 1999, Rachel sustained a fall while climbing in a faulty competition facility, leaving her with one shattered ankle and the other broken.

STOKED! A close FOURTH place in the 2018 USA Adaptive National Championships in Ohio yesterday. So overwhelmed. • • I have been climbing for 12 months, 24 hours of flights and time zone changes to get here… arrived to a Redpoint format that I didn’t train for (3 hours of climbing as opposed to 18 minutes 😂), and pain levels through the roof. But I reminded myself throughout the comp that the me on the wall yesterday was the best self that I can be in that moment with all that has lead to it. And that my best was good enough. And it WAS. So excited to see what’s ahead for me. Proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and BEYOND thankful for everyone that has encouraged and supported. • • Adaptive Climbing USA… thanks for having me! So privileged to be a member of your community and to have spent a day with such rad enthusiastic climbers. • Big ThankYou’s to Coach Rob, SLR Vertigo Adventure Centre – Ohakune, Talking Point Taranaki, Physical Care Centre Whanganui, Mana Orthopaedics, Taranaki Tuataras Climbing Group, Sport Whanganui, Splash Centre Whanganui, Whanganui Lions Club, Mud Ducks Whanganui, Meteor Office Products Whanganui, Guthrie’s Auto Care Whanganui, Fitzies Springvale, Wanganui Eyecare, and ALL the Aroha from the Climbing NZ Community. And @_sylviarose_ who has travelled with me, carried bags, organised, and coached me through pre-comp nerves and painful moments tears … I don’t have words. You have made this trip so much more manageable and FUN! Bring on Vegas April 2019!!! You’re all a part of this journey. So Blessed. Going home full of good vibes!• • • #climbingnz #wearerab #historymaker #adaptiveathlete #nzrepresent #columbus #vaohio #ohio #rockclimbing #competition #resilience #usaadaptiveclimbing #usaclimbing #growthmindset @koruholds @climbingnz @nigel.willis.963 @10shandy15 @_sylviarose_ @infinity_climbing @chelsoii @wanganuieyecare

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She spent the following months in a wheelchair whilst recovering from major joint reconstruction. Part of her hip was used as a graft to reshape the left ankle, as well as large metal screws. Then came learning to walk again.

Common high school barbs and taunts included being called “cripple” and she started to be believe it. After a while it was easier just to answer to the label because kids stopped using her name. But it shattered her confidence and belief in herself that she would ever succeed in climbing again.

Five years ago, by then unable to walk due to severe progressive damage, Rachel became the fifth person in New Zealand to have an experimental operation. It involved having a metal frame attached internally and externally through her lower leg, and using a pair of spanners daily to slowly expand the joint herself. During this process and the subsequent recovery, she began to understand pain and ‘disability’ in a new way.

As part of her rehab Rachel made the conscious choice to challenge her belief in what she can and cannot do and so she began to teach herself to climb despite the injury. Although she is not able to use her lower left leg on the wall she is now climbing better as a para-climber than she ever did with two good legs.

“Anything’s possible. Adapt. Defy. Learn by failing, learn by trying,” says Rachel, as she looks forward to being New Zealand’s first para-climber to compete on the international stage at the World Championships.

“I climb better with one and a half legs than I ever did with two,” she said. “We’ve never had, in our history, a paraclimber compete outside of New Zealand.”

Rachel is an inspirational public speaker and regularly shares her story of achievement and resilience with school students, sporting groups and corporations.