In life there are those days where everything changes.
For Noel Sens, Saturday October 22 1983, is one.
The then 25-year-old was in his prime as an A-grade dirt track and speedway motorcycle racer.
Most Saturdays you would find him roaring around the Bendigo Speedway, until a high-speed near-death crash left him with lifelong injuries which ended his career.
"My left leg and my pelvis were that badly smashed they fused my leg to the hip joint which left my leg three inches shorter," Sens said.
Sens faced years of rehabilitation on his path to recovery which included both swimming and cycling.
Even though he wasn't racing motorcycles, his will to race remained stronger than ever and it was only a matter of time before he found his next competitive outlet.
While also helping run the family business, Sens Jewellers, he put all his energy into cycling which he started in Bendigo under the guidance of his coach Laurie Naughton.
"It wasn't until the late 80s that I started racing push bikes, I had been doing a bit of riding but I wasn't yet competing as I was still managing injuries," he said.
It was in the late 1990s when another life-changer came Sens' way.
He met the national Paralympic coach Kevin McIntosh who gave Sens a new challenge, to ride in the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney which was around two years away.
With guidance from McIntosh, Naughton and also support from his career sponsor Dr Wal McGregor, Sens was ready to take cycling to the next level.
In 1998 he attended his first national track championships in Perth followed by golden performances at the 1999 Southern Cross Multi Disability Championship.
Next up was the qualifying event for the Australian Paralympic team.
"We were given a certain per cent of the world record time which we had to beat," Sens said.
"I was the second-last pick from within the group and I didn't think I would make it.
"But I did, it was bloody hard though," he laughed.
The experience of representing Australia at a Paralympics against the world's best on home soil will be cherished by Sens forever, especially as captain of the national cycling team.
"It's one of the biggest things I've ever done in my life," he said.
"I was so grateful to get there as I was still crook and battling injuries."
Walking out in front of thousands of people at the opening ceremony and competing against the best, looking back on the achievement now 20 years later, it's all still clear as day.
Sens raced in the one-kilometre time trial where he finished 15th and the three kilometre individual pursuit where he was 14th.
But the highlight was the road race through Sydney's Centennial Park.
"I was the only rider for Australia in my division which left me without a team mate which made it a challenging race," Sens said.
"With around 50m left to go I got up into second place but I just got swamped and ended up finishing 10th.
"I am still proud of my performance as it was a real challenge, literally riding against the world's best."
He couldn't have been any prouder especially as he had the support from his ex-wife Kerrie, children Lushelle and Stefan, brothers Peter and Paul and members of his immediate family watching from the sidelines.
Filled with confidence he then later achieved gold at the world championships in Prague, secured 16 national titles throughout his career as well as falling just short of qualifying for the Athens Paralympics squad.
To this day Sens is still heavily involved with cycling as well as members of his family who race both at a local and international level.
He also is one of the Bendigo District CC's junior coaches, runs several development programs and is a commentator at club events.
"The whole Paralympic experience gave me the confidence to do everything I do now and it was such a great chance to achieve something big. I will never forget it."
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