Ditch the Arm, Keep the Leg - the Inspiring Story of Elizabeth Wright

Posted on Wednesday 23rd July, 2014

Australian Paralympian, Elizabeth Wright, has just published her autobiography.  With her kind permission we are reproducing extracts from the book to whet your appetite.

I often think about the day I was born.  I wonder what the doctors and nurses thought as I was pulled from my mother's womb: did they see the magic of life? Or did they, instead, see a life already lost: a child with no prospects; a child with no future? If that is what they thought, how very wrong they were. 

Ditch the Arm, Keep the Leg


It was early in the New Year, 1996, when I received an invitation to go to the announcement of the Australian Swimming Team for the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games.  Everyone who had even the remotest chance of making the team was invited; the invitation itself indicated nothing.  I may make the team; I may not make the team. 

On the day itself, I was absent from school, Dad took the day off work; together with Mum, we drove into Sydney's city centre towards the venue.  Inside, it was packed.  We managed to find a few seats near the back of the room.  There was a small stage at the front with a lectern, the APC logo etched on the front. 

A screen at the rear of the stage showed a montage of previous Paralympians, with emotive music accompanying the visuals.  Eventually, the head of APC, Bob McCullough, stood up and started to drone on about the APC, the Paralympics, and how wonderful it was to represent your country.  My leg started to jiggle with impatience - a trait inherited from my dad; I just wanted to know, had I been selected or not? Finally, Mr McCullough started to name the team. 

Working through the list alphabetically meant the process was slow, as each person announced had to be hauled onto, and applauded, on the stage.  When Janelle's name was called out I stood up, whooping.  We'd stayed in touch after the trials, and every swim meet since, we'd hung out between races, cementing what was to become a very important friendship for me. 

Alicia's name was read out.  I clapped then turned to Mum and Dad with a knowing smile on my face.  If Alicia had made the team, surely I would? I was faster than her in our races, but there were still many names to get through before they got to 'W'.  The head of that APC marched through the Ss, Ts, Us and Vs, finally making it to the Ws.... 

'Elizabeth Wright!'

Elizabeth went on to win medals for the Australian Paralympic team
Elizabeth went on to win medals for the Australian Paralympic team

I sat there, stunned, as the crowd around me started to clap.  Mum pushed me out of my seat towards the stage.  I glanced at my parents as I walked up: they both had tears in their eyes and grins from ear to ear.  I stumbled onto the stage, my hands shaking and head exploding.  Despite assuming I'd make the team, given that Alicia had, there had still been doubt.  That gnawing feeling that moves from your stomach to your heart, not allowing you to quite believe what may be too good to be true. 

As I passed my other team members they too clapped with smiles on their faces; Priya reached out and squeezed my hand, Janelle reached out for a hug - finally I made it to the end of the line.  I stood in disbelief as the rest of the team members were named.  Happiness and excitement blotted out any other thought. 


Some people may wonder how I live my life, with my right arm missing from the elbow, a finger missing on my left hand, and with my thumb and finger fused together.  Or how I manage, with my right leg missing my thigh and knee; a severely shortened leg with a tiny foot on the end. 

Elizabeth Wright

My answer is: I live my life the same as anyone else does.  My parents raised me as able-bodied, and instilled in me that I could do anything I wanted to do.  This strong grounding and inner belief has seen me achieve more than most people dream of.  As I collected both my silver and bronze Paralympic medals, I knew that anyone who has ever written me off has more issues and limitations than I've ever had. 

You can buy "Ditch the Arm, Keep the Leg" from OodleBooks.

To find out more about Elizabeth Wright, visit her website or email her at

Tags: Paralympic Paralympian Australia Swimming Inspiring ElizabethWright Article Article


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