Born without a right hand, multi-talented Australian Elite Para-Triathlete Kate Doughty has excelled remarkably in equestrian, violin and triathlon. Imagine that. What many would have viewed as a setback, Kate saw as an opportunity to succeed, in a different way.
We recently had the privilege to connect with Kate and hear her story. Enjoy this short video of Kate who is also Patron of Aussie Hands.
View the full version here.
How was it like growing up, can you tell us about your childhood and going through life as a teenager?
I had a great life growing up and was given many opportunities to try out different things. I lived in a great neighbourhood with my close friends all within streets of each other. We would usually hang out daily after school and on weekends. Our home always had friends passing by and calling in to say hello. Everyone loved visiting and always felt welcome. I loved school and learning. I learnt the Japanese and Indonesian language.
My family travelled to Bali every year since my brother and I were very young, so it was like a second home to us. I have many close friends from Bali who would always chat with me in Indonesian so I was really passionate about learning the language. Our family travelled a lot throughout Asia. I loved Malaysia and went horse riding on the beach in Penang. Singapore was great too, such an amazing city.
My brother, Scott is 18 months older than I, and I have always looked up to him. I followed him everywhere as a kid. We are close friends till today and it was great to have an older brother growing up – as a teenager he kept me out of trouble! I always admired his confidence and charisma; qualities I aspired to have as a teenager.
It’s remarkable to hear of your outstanding achievements - winning awards for equestrian and violin at the age of 13! What sparked your interest in these? We’d love to hear you share your journey with us.
My mother rode horses growing up and was very successful. I loved horses too as a child, and went to riding school - learnt everything from brushing and washing a horse to learning how to ride. I could never hold the reins properly so I just tied them together and rode a bit like a cowboy, one handed.
It wasn’t until a few years after going to riding school and pony camps that my parents realised I was very committed and passionate about riding and purchased a pony for me. He was named ‘Cocoa’ and was about 23 years old - the best pony ever. I was always lucky to be on safe horses, and I think that is very important when children are learning how to ride. You need to learn to be confident on a horse otherwise they can get the better of you, so learning how to ride properly on safe and educated horses is key to getting the foundations right. From pony club I started to compete in showing, then dressage. I always competed in open (able-bodied) competitions. I was unable to be classified for para-equestrian at the time as I was told having a wrist (but no hand) was ineligible. Over the years I learnt to hold the reins properly by attaching a leather loop to the right rein and hooked my wrist through it. For the higher levels, you ride with four reins. Something that I mastered over years of trial and error! After a few years I was then classified and eligible for para-equestrian, so I started to learn more about para-equestrian while still competing in open competitions.
I spent over 20 years riding and competing and shared the journey with my Mum. We had many highs and lows but it was my Mum’s commitment and passion to see me achieve my dreams of one day representing Australia that gave me all the opportunity for success. The horse I had most success with, and was selected for the World Equestrian Games in 2010 was named ‘Al Capone’. We purchased him as a 4-year old and I trained him through all the levels of Dressage. There are no shortcuts in this sport. It can take 7 to 10 years to train a horse to the highest levels of Dressage (FEI). Hard work, consistency and patience resulted in huge success representing Australia in Dressage for over six years.
I had the opportunity to learn the violin at school, which I loved. This opportunity only came about due to my parents though. At school all the kids were learning the violin however as I didn’t have a hand, the teachers believed this wasn’t possible. They were going to put myself, along with another classmate who had Down Syndrome, in another room to do school work while all our friends learnt the violin. My parents didn’t think this was good enough, and with the assistance of the Royal Children’s Hospital, I was fitted with a myoelectric hand, which enabled me to hold the violin bow. I then just joined in like all the other kids. I received the Melbourne Junior Achiever Award for violin and equestrian when I was 13. I played at an international conference in front of an audience of over 1000 people. It was pretty amazing.
You are a remarkable inspiration and we admire how you’re incredibly positive! What drives you and where do you get all that positive energy from? Who is your biggest source of inspiration?
I have always just been a kid wanting to try new things. I’m driven by opportunity and learning. I love meeting new people and the world is such an amazing place, I want to make sure I have lived life to the full, and taken every opportunity to become a better person. My biggest inspiration is my mother. Sadly, we lost her to breast cancer in 2010. If I can be half the person she was, I will be grateful.
Are there days when you feel blue – how do you overcome tough days?
Yes! I have always been up early getting the day started, but there are days when I really just need time out. I am fully aware of my body and mind though. I will question why I am feeling flat or down, and try to resolve this in my head and by talking to others. Sometimes I just need a little push and then I’m fine and back into it, but other days I need to rest. Communication is so important. Even if it is just for a good vent. It is amazing how therapeutic it can be to just get things off your chest. Try not to harbour things, as it will serve you no purpose.
Often we (triathletes) are physically fatigued, so at times I have to mentally focus on strategies to help me get through tough training sessions. For me, the biggest indicator that I really need a rest – even if it’s just a change of scenery for a day or change in routine – is mental fatigue. It is critical to know when you are mentally fatigued. It is important to give your mind as much rest as your body. In a sport like triathlon, it is all about the mental strength. Come race day – physically your body will do what it can, but the extra 1% that gets you the win is sheer determination and mental toughness. The mind controls the body. It needs to be cared for just as much as our body.
You transitioned professionally to triathlon in 2014. Tell us more.
I retired from the equestrian world in June 2014. I had a few months left of my Psychology Masters to complete, so I was busy. However, I still needed something else. I have always admired triathletes because I was never a runner or cyclist. All I had in me was a few years of swimming as a child. So, I tried a local triathlon. Had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but loved every minute of it! I then met my current coach (Corey Bacon – Performance Triathlon Coaching) at a race in January 2015, and have had huge success under his guidance and support. He molded me into the triathlete I am today which I am thankful for. It is not easy taking someone with little to none triathlon experience to the elite level in less than two years. I have had huge success winning races overseas and in Australia. I won bronze at the World Paratriathlon Championships in Chicago last year, and recently qualified for the 2016 Rio Paralympics later this year.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable because you need to step outside your comfort zone to grow as an individual. -Kate Doughty
We’re really excited to hear about your participation in your first Paralympics! Congratulations! May we have a peek into what your average day is like as you prepare for RIO 2016?
I train on average 20 hours a week. I work part time (3 days a week) as a Psychologist/Rehabilitation Consultant. So on workdays, training is at 6am and then at 5:30pm. On the other days of the week, this usually includes 2-3 training sessions. All our sessions can vary, but we swim, bike and run roughly 4-5 times a week each, plus 2 gym sessions a week. As we have just finished our key races now before Rio, the next few months are all about strength training and technique work, before we go back into the speed sets closer to Rio. We will spend most of our time on the Gold Coast, Australia and then we’ll head to Florida, USA. This is for the heat and humidity, which is great preparation. Then on to Rio.
Watch Kate’s “Come Join Me” video (1:00 – 1:25)
My diet is pretty simple actually! I am a pescatarian and I really eat to ensure I am giving my body the right fuel at the right time. For over 20 years I have had luke warm water with lemon juice on waking. I live by this. It is so cleansing for the body. I also love my soy latte before anything else! I avoid highly processed food as much as I can, and high sugar foods. I get skin folds every 6 weeks so there is not much room to gain or lose too much weight really.
Breakfasts include anything from porridge to muesli with blueberries, banana and honey and a dab of yoghurt. This is great before a big day of training. Lunch is usually tuna and salad, trying to add as much colour to the salad as I can. Dinner is usually brown rice, vegetables and a source of protein so either salmon, tuna, tofu and/or eggs. I keep it simple. Give the body the right food and avoid supplements if you don’t need them. I love green smoothies, great after training to refuel what has just been used. I always carry food to snack on to avoid eating things out of sheer hunger. I will usually have almonds and a banana with me.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Bring home a gold medal from Rio, visit my brother in Singapore and hopefully get back to visit more of Asia. Plan for world championships in Triathlon for 2017, and keep the body and mind healthy and happy.
Do you have a message for our PurelyB readers?
My biggest motto for life is making sure you are doing what you love. Life’s too short not to enjoy it. Surround yourself with people who can make you a better person. Get comfortable being uncomfortable because you need to step outside your comfort zone to grow as an individual. Once you do, the world is full of opportunity. Be happy, look after your body and mind, and find what makes you happy, and stick to it. Smile, it makes others curious.
Really awesome, Kate! Thank you very much for sharing your inspiring journey with us! You show us that nothing is impossible! PurelyB wishes you all the very best in RIO 2016!