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If He Had The Chance, This Paralympian Wouldn't Tell His 13-Year-Old Self A Damn Thing

Kurt Fearnley is a damn hero.

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Australian Paralympic legend Kurt Fearnley retired on Monday following his second place finish in the Rio marathon.

The five-time Paralympian led for most of the race but was chased down by Switzerland’s Marcel Hug with 200 metres to go, missing out on gold by a single, agonising second.

Fearnley has won three Paralympic gold medals and crossed the line first in marathons in New York, LA, Chicago, London, Rome, Paris and Sydney. He also famously crawled the treacherous Kokoda track in Papua New Guinea in 2009.

The athlete, who was born without the lower portion of his spine, said he was immensely proud of his Paralympic career.

“It’s just been an amazing run these last 16 years. Thankfully I started off with a 32nd placing in the first Paralympic marathon back in Sydney. And I’m grateful for that start," he said.

“That start gave me the next 16 years to build on. I’m as proud of that day as I am today.”

Before the race, Kurt tweeted about his 13-year-old self, saying it's amazing to think about how far he's come.

Last Paralympic run tomorrow. Weird thinking about me at 13, wondering & dreaming about where it would go:) living a 20 yr gift. #Lovethis

Following the race, Kurt was asked what he'd say to that 13-year-old if he could go back in time, and his answer was perfect.

Hear from the legend @kurtfearnley after marathon #silver. Congrats on a stellar career | https://t.co/fcNBRMcEQE https://t.co/LtDvaCaO3a

"I would avoid him at all costs. I would let him do everything that he had to do to get to this point, and every point that's happened. Some of the most memorable moments are the hardest moments, and they're the things that you eventually become most proud of."

"Those days that you wake up and you win, they're awesome, y'know. They're the easy days. But those days where you wake up and you can barely drag yourself out of bed... where you're in so much pain and discomfort, where you're mentally just trying to grind yourself to just... believe. They're the tough days and they're the ones that I'm proud of."

Fearnley’s wife Sheridan and two-year-old son Harry were in Rio to watch him compete at the Paralympics for the final time.

“His determination and his ability to see the best in any situation makes him the racer he is,” Sheridan said after the race.

“He never discounts anyone else’s performance. He always applauds who is first on the day.”

The silver is Fearnley's second medal in Rio – he won a bronze in the 5000 metre race – and his 13th Paralympic medal overall. And while it's his last Paralympics, Fearnley still plans to compete in races across the globe.

“First I need to go home and lie down,” he said after the race.

Rob Stott is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Rob Stott at rob.stott@buzzfeed.com.

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