During fitness training near his hometown in June 1988, John Maclean was hit by an 8-tonne truck as he rode his bike. The impact resulted in John suffering multiple breaks to his pelvis and back, a fractured sternum, punctured lungs, and a broken arm, and left John a paraplegic. It took astonishing courage and determination, but somehow this near-fatal accident was the making of him.
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. So he set about proving himself in the world's toughest sporting events.
In 1995 John made history by becoming the first wheelchair athlete to finish the course at the world's most challenging multi-discipline sporting event – the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon,
In 1997 he not only finished within the able-bodied cut-off times, he also beat a third of the field and became the first-ever wheelchair category winner.
Many extraordinary sporting challenges followed, including becoming the first wheelchair athlete to swim the English Channel in 1998 on his second attempt. The swim took John 12 hours and 50 minutes.
John represented Australia at the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games, wheelchair racing. In 2001 he sailed in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, and 2005 saw him complete the gruelling Molokai Ocean challenge (World Championships for open water paddling). In 2006 he took part in the invitation-only extreme endurance event, the Ultraman World Championships, in Hawaii.
John was invited into the sport of rowing in early 2007. In September 2007, he and his rowing partner claimed a silver medal at the Rowing World Championships. They followed up with GOLD at the International Regatta in Italy in April 2008, and won Rowing silver at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games.
After 25 years as an incomplete paraplegic, John took his first steps towards achieving his dream to walk again. With the aid of carbon fibre leg braces and walking poles, John returned to complete the Nepean Triathlon in 2014, the same triathlon he was training for when he had his accident 25 years earlier.
Staying true to his mantra how far can you go?
John made a return to competitive sport last year, qualifying to represent Australia at the 2022 World Cup in Poznan, Poland for sprint kayak – Para-Canoe.
This is the fifth time John as represented is country in five different sports at the age of 55.
After missing the qualifying time by one second for the 2023 Para-Canoe World Championships this year, John has pivoted and is now training for a 27km ocean paddle race (The Doctor) from Rottnest Island, in Perth Western Australia, to Sorrento Beach in November of this year…
PARALLEL TO HIS SPORTING CAREER, JOHN SOUGHT TO FOCUS FURTHER HIS TREMENDOUS ENERGY AND DETERMINATION ON HELPING OTHERS AND ESTABLISHED A CHARITABLE FOUNDATION IN 1998.
THE JOHN MACLEAN FOUNDATION IS NOW A NATIONAL ORGANISATION SUPPORTING AND ASSISTING AUSTRALIAN WHEELCHAIR USERS UNDER 18.
“In business and in life, we all face obstacles and crossroads. While my 25-year 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 and adversity 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.”
John’s mission statement is “ONLY POSSIBILITIES”. John lived by this mantra when he approached NeuroPhysics therapist Ken Ware in April 2013. After 25 years as an incomplete paraplegic, John has taken his first steps towards achieving his dream to walk again, thanks to Ware’s ‘WareK Health’ trigger process.
Although the wheelchair remains John’s primary mode of movement, this dramatic and extraordinary development allows him to rediscover life. It’s a journey in progress, and John continues treatment to improve his mobility further.
In the spirit of reconciliation, we acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today. We seek to draw on this rich heritage to better understand our collective duty to nurture and care for the environment.