John’s Amazing Story
During fitness training near his hometown in Sydney, Australia, in June 1988, John was hit by an 8-ton truck as he rode his bike. The impact resulted in multiple breaks to his pelvis and back, a fractured sternum, punctured lungs, a broken arm, and left John a paraplegic. It took astonishing courage and determination, but somehow this near-fatal accident made him the man he is today. Despite the grief of what he had lost, the excruciating physical pain and the challenges of daily life in a wheelchair, John decided he would become bigger and stronger than ever. He set about proving himself in the toughest sporting events the world had to offer.
In 1995 John made history by becoming the first wheelchair athlete to finish the course at the world’s toughest multi-discipline sporting event — the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, drawing on all his inner strength to continue to the finish line after falling outside the able-bodied cut-off times in the bike section.
The following year John narrowly missed the cut off time again, this time due to a flat tire but proceeded to once again complete the entire course.
In 1997 he not only finished within the able-bodied cut-off times, he beat a third of the field and became the first ever wheelchair category winner. In 2002 John became the first non-American, and the first wheelchair athlete to be inducted into the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon Hall of Fame.
Many more extraordinary sporting challenges followed, including becoming the first wheelchair athlete to swim the English Channel in 1998, and complete the gruelling Molokai Ocean challenge in 2005 (World Championships for open water paddling). He represented Australia at the Sydney 2000 Olympic, and Paralympic Games, and in 2001 he sailed in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. In 2006 he took part in the invitation-only extreme endurance event, the Ultraman World Championships, in Hawaii
Early in 2007, John was invited into the sport of rowing. In September 2007 he and his rowing partner claimed a silver medal at the Rowing World Championships, and followed up with gold at the International Regatta in Italy in April 2008. John won rowing silver at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games.
Parallel to his sporting career, John sought to further focus his tremendous energy and determination on helping others. He established a charitable foundation in 1998, the John Maclean Foundation, which is now a national scale organization providing support and assistance to Australian wheelchair users under the age of 18. The Foundation’s mission is to inspire, motivate and enable physically-challenged kids to chase their dreams and live life to the fullest. The Foundation has currently raised $4 million.
In a moment of fatigue and exhaustion a few years after his accident, John’s father consoled John by saying “Son, look how far you’ve come… now how far can you go?” This became John’s mission statement, and when he approached NeuroPhysics therapist, Ken Ware, in April 2013, John was living by the mantra how far can you go? That April, after 25 years in a wheelchair, John took his first steps toward achieving his dream to walk again.
An incomplete paraplegic, with some movement and feeling in his left leg, John was always able to support his weight, on crutches, for short periods of time, and although the wheelchair remains John’s primary mode of movement, this dramatic and extraordinary development is allowing him to rediscover life, walking short distances unassisted.
In October 2014 John returned to compete in the triathlon he was training for in 1988 when he was hit by the truck. The Nepean Triathlon was the first triathlon John competed in as a wheelchair athlete, and he returned 26 years later to finish as a conventional athlete, taking more than three and a half hours to walk the final 10 km’s.
John’s life is a journey in progress, and he continues to set and achieve extraordinary goals as he further improves his mobility. Corporations across the globe find John’s wisdom and inspiration invaluable in achieving focus and delivering potential.
“In business and in life, we all face obstacles and crossroads. While my story seems like an extreme account of setbacks and facing up to them, the message is not about those obstacles, or how they got there; more about learning to see challenges, or adversity if you like, and welcoming it as a fuel to feed off. Any of the great people I have met have harnessed adversity and turned it into an energy that allows them to achieve so much more. All of us can do that, we simply have to make that choice.”
Force of Impact
“Cisco’s global audience of over 3,000 people were hanging on John’s every word. He is a masterful speaker, who conveys his story with humility and inspiration. After many years of choosing keynote speakers for events, I can truly say that John is the best we have ever hired or that I have ever seen
John’s story is not just about what he has overcome and accomplished — it reminds everyone, whether you are talking about business or your personal life, that ultimately it is you who decides how far you can go. Thank you, John!”
Wendy Bahr, Senior Vice President, Global Partner Organization at Cisco
“For the last 10 years we’ve hosted some of the world’s most compelling TED speakers at our annual customer solutions summit, but we can say without reservation that John Maclean is by far the single most impactful presenter we have ever hosted. John’s story is obviously amazing and inspiring, but it is the sincere and deliberate way that he engages with your audience after the fact that makes the difference. He created long term connections with our people and our customers that are still being talked about daily.”
Paul Giobbi, President of Zumasys, Inc.
“John is the most inspirational speaker I have seen. That is saying a lot considering the 100’s of professional speakers I have been exposed to. His story is amazing, delivery flawlessly and his resonating connection with every one of our team members will remain forever. We as a leadership team have never had so much positive feedback about an outside speaker. Inviting John to speak to your team will be one of the most significant things you do for your team.’
Radek Sali, Chief Executive Officer at Swisse Wellness Pty Ltd.
John’s book How Far Can You Go? My 25-year Quest to Walk Again is now available on Amazon.com