Gerrard Gosens has represented Australia in multiple sports for over 30 years.
He's competed at three Paralympic Games and well over a dozen world championships — and climbed Everest, and danced with the stars, and launched a thriving business, and been awarded an OAM … the list goes on.
Let's talk Comm Games!
There's not much this para-triathlete can't do — except see. He has been completely blind his whole life.
One of the oldest members of the Australian team in Birmingham, Gosens will make his Commonwealth Games debut in the men's PTVI triathlon.
He tells the ABC it will also be his last major international meet.
Birmingham will be a unique first and a bittersweet final
Para-triathlon for athletes who use wheelchairs made its Commonwealth Games debut in 2018 on the Gold Coast.
Birmingham will be the first time vision-impaired athletes can compete in the event, and while Gosens is classified as PTVI1 — the highest classification of vision impairment — athletes classified as PTVI1, PTVI2 and PTVI3 all race in the same event.
"It’s time to hang up the boots and support other athletes in their journey to come through and represent Australia," he says.
"This is my swan song, I’ll give it everything I’ve got until the last line."
He'll run, swim and tandem-bike the Sutton Park course with guide Hayden Armstrong, who he describes as a "very accomplished athlete in his own right".
After a three-decade international representative career, Gosens says he's more motivated than ever to give it his all.
"The funny thing about being totally blind is that being Australian isn’t [about] being able to see the Australian flag, because I’ve never seen the Australian flag," he says.
"It isn't about being in the green and gold tracksuit because I've never seen green and gold.
"It's the actual belief in being Australian, and for me, that’s the pure honour of representing my country."
Commonwealth Games bid very nearly derailed
In March Gosens was in a serious bike accident that left him hospitalised for more than two weeks with multiple broken bones.
"I now have a titanium collarbone and eight titanium ribs," he says.
"Thankfully the Gold Coast University Hospital was kind enough to be aware of my pursuits and fast-track the recovery. I was able to jump off the hospital bed and straight back into training, and I’m 90 per cent back where I was before the accident."
He says his first run after leaving hospital was "horrific". But just four months on, he'll race on the world stage — and not just through a stroke of luck.
"I've run from Cairns to Brisbane five times, I’ve climbed Everest, all the various escapades I’ve had, my body has learned to recover quickly and recover well," he says.
"It must be the chocolate, I’m sure. Chocolate cures everything."
And he would know.
How chasing athletics glory led to chocolate excellence
Gosens has been a chocolatier for 15 years, hand-making tasty treats out of his family business in Brisbane.
But it was travelling the world for sport that led him to this passion.
"To walk into a store overseas when you’re looking to buy a gift for your wife or family or friends, it was very difficult to know if it was a good T-shirt or memento," he says.
"So chocolate was always an easy thing to go to, and I developed an awareness and a taste for chocolate around the world."
His physical training routine was coupled with "madly making chocolate and stocking up the shelves" with wife Heather in the weeks before leaving for Birmingham.
Looking to the next generation
Birmingham 2022 might be his last international meet — but Gosens is not leaving sport for good.
After spending years on the Paralympic advisory committee he'll be turning his attention to helping other young para-athletes reach their full potential.
He already coaches multiple athletes and says there are countless opportunities for everyday sport-lovers to contribute to the development of para-sport.
"I've got some great examples of young kids here who are being guides. There’s perceptions that are starting to be broken down about how a young kid can assist another kid in their sport development," he says.
"The growth of the Paralympic movement around the world has become sensational in its exposure and awareness but it came from a very challenging base.
"If you look back to even the 1990 Commonwealth Games, back then there was a lot of resistance towards people with disabilities participating. Now there’s a real inclusion across a whole range of different sports, but the pathways still need a lot of work."
Catch Gerrard Gosens in the men's PTVI triathlon on day three of the 2022 Commonwealth Games — Sunday evening Australia time.