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World record runner Roeger ready to roll for Rio bid

Michael Roeger
Michael Roeger trains at the AIS Track and Field Centre in preparation for the IPC World Championships in Doha.

16 Oct 2015

Michael Roeger feared he’d never run again after suffering internal bleeding at the 2012 London Paralympics, now he’s a world record  holder and favourite for gold in Rio next year.

Roeger is determined to assert his authority in the 1500m at the International Paralympic Committee’s Athletics World Championships in Doha on October 22.

Raised in Langhorne Creek, South Australia, the 27-year-old relocated to the AIS in Canberra in 2009 after making his Paralympic debut as a teenager at the 2008 Beijing Games.

He was rated a strong medal chance in the 800m at London, before disaster hit.

“Unfortunately I got sick in the lead-up and didn’t finish my race. So for me, Rio is redemption,” Roeger says.

“I was coming in third favourite and the night before my race I got struck down with a gastro-intestinal bleed - basically I just bled out inside.

“I tried to race for my family, friends and everyone else watching back in Australia, but in the heats of the 800m I got out there and I knew it wasn’t going to be good. I got through 200m, I was really off the back of the pace. I just thought ‘get to the 400, run straight out the tunnel, and that was it.

“Recovering from London was pretty hard. I remember about six weeks after the incident, back in Australia, I thought I’d get out for an easy run. It was just a 20 minute run, I got through five minutes, my heart rate was 192, I broke down in tears and thought ‘am I ever going to be able to run again’.”

Not only is Roeger running again, he’s running faster than anyone in the world ever has for his T46 classification – an arm amputee.

An employee at the Australian Sports Commission in Canberra, Roeger has taken up coaching from AIS sport scientist and veteran middle-distance runner Philo Saunders.

The pair have proved a winning combination, Roeger smashing the 1500m world record in Boston in June.

“He picked me up, instilled confidence in me that no one ever has,” Roeger said. “I really trusted his program, he’s got me to where I am now and I never thought ever in this world that I could run as fast as I have.

“That feeling of crossing the line and breaking the world record was one that I’ve never ever felt before. Having Philo there was the most special feeling in my life. I think the only way I’m going to feel that again won’t be to beat that time, I think it will be to get that gold medal in Rio.”

Roeger has a wicked sense of humour and likes to shock people by telling them he lost his arm in a crocodile accident in the Northern Territory.

“I’ve got a twin brother Christopher and this is how I popped out,” he says, shock accomplished. “I haven’t known any different, so for me it’s been easy to adjust in life. The hardest thing for me to do is cut up a tomato.”

“I guess growing up with a twin brother Christopher, he never saw me as someone with a disability or saw me as someone less than him.

“The only thing he ever beat me at in life was coming out at birth, he just beat me … we did everything together, we played footy, cricket and basketball, even ran together, I reckon he really did help me.

“He’s actually a doctor, so he got the brains and I got the looks.”

Come September next year, Roeger also aims to have a Paralympic gold medal.

“I’m not a young fella now, I’m 27,” Roeger says. “Rio is my big chance to finally get that gold medal. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time. Beijing was good, London wasn’t so good, but I reckon Rio’s going to be the one.”

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