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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 22 December 2018
NEWS 10 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 22 DECEMBER 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Christina Vithoulkas who was left paralysed after motorbike accident is already back on her bike! “It was scary, but I felt free again,” says the 23-year-old Greek Australian motor cross rider… THEODORA MAIOS Adelaide born motocross rider Christina Vithoulkas, who was left paralysed from the chest down after a motorcycle accident three months ago, has had an early Christmas present when together with her fiancé James, she managed the unthinkable, to get back on her motorbike. "As scary as it was, the feeling of being back on the bike was just amazing," says the 23-year-old thrill seeker who is originally from the Riverland in South Australia and has been a freestyle rider for five years. After almost three months of intense rehabilitation and following the doctor's devastating prognosis that it was unlikely Christina would ever walk again, the determined young woman who came off her bike during a failed jump at a friend's property in regional SA, continues to defiantly wow everyone with her strength and courage, refusing to let her injury stop her from living a full life. the year. Every day that goes by the young girl whose family originates from the island of Zakynthos, feels stronger mentally and physically, and is convinced that her life's calling is to inspire other people, particularly young women to be strong and to always focus on the brighter side of life. Fiancé James, who proposed to Christina just a few months ago, has not left her side. Christina and James riding together. PHOTO: SUPPLIED "My bones and muscles have now healed, and I am slowly starting to feel like myself again," says Christina who admits that although initially she thought hopping onto her bike would be an easy task, having to let go and trust someone else to ride with her was even more confronting and scary than she initially thought. "I was so lucky to have James ride with me. I must admit, although I trust him with my life, it wasn't easy to ride when I couldn't even feel my legs but the mo- ment I crossed the point of fear and took that leap, I instantly felt enjoyment and growth," continues Christina who despite the doctor's crushing news, has already mastered her wheelchair and feels ready to get back on her new bike at the end of "She is my soulmate. I love my girl and I'll always be here to look after her," says the 25-year-old excavator operator and part time freestyle rider who has resigned from his work and is now Christina's primary carer. "Everyone keeps asking me where I get my strength from, but for me, it is just simple; I make sure I surround myself with people who believe in me and want to see me grow even when I start to doubt myself. "Life truly us an amazing journey and I am here to enjoy every minute of it," she concludes. PHOTO: SUPPLIED Wheelchair dancing duo, Emily Preketes-Ashley and husband Paul, get second place at Latin World Cup Emily Preketes-Ashley and husband Paul Ashley, stunned the United States audience while performing at the World Latin Dance Cup in Orlando, Florida earlier this week. Following a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe, Paul and Emily raised enough money to travel across the ocean and represent Australia in the Wheelchair category. Not only did they give an exquisite performance, but they also stole the hearts of the judges taking second place. The duo from Kingsgrove first took up wheelchair dancing when preparing for their wedding dance in 2016 but have come a long way since. The loved-up couple took their passion for Latin to the next level training like athletes and competing in international events with the help of a personal dance instructor who choreographs wheelchair compatible dance routines. “To translate the choreography to wheelchair dancing, it's kind of not that difficult, sometimes it is and we have to practice more and more to get it right, but it's pretty easy to pick it up," Emily said before leaving for Florida. "He [the instructor] teaches us what he knows and then what we can do with dancing, and we push and spin around and do some movements with our hands. "For Greek Australian Emily, competing is not a new thing as she is a longtime para athlete, having grown-up playing wheelchair basketball; she also competes in long and short distance wheelchair races. "It is really important for people in wheelchairs to practice sports and danc- ing. I think its really good for them so people in wheelchairs can be active and move around a lot more," she stressed. "Other people can walk around and do what they want to do so it's a bit harder for people in wheelchairs but we just act normal. We're normal people like everyone else and so we just want to be active and move around a lot more." PHOTO: FACEBOOK Meanwhile, husband and co-athlete Paul said he had been practicing wheelchair sports since the age of nine, as he always wanted to be involved in sporting activities, something that his school environment made hard. "I've competed in wheelchair track and road racing, as well as wheelchair basketball, swimming and rowing," he says, adding that he has represented NSW and Australia in each of these sports, an experience that also has allowed him to travel all over the world. ''I like to always say that life doesn't slow down or stop just because you are in a wheelchair, it certainly hasn't slowed me down, if you have dreams or goals, just get out there and follow those dreams and goals and have fun doing so.'' It is this spirit that both Emily and Paul carry which helps them pursue their goals regardless of their disability." My motto in life is 'my ability is stronger than my disability," enthuses Emily. "I think everyone with a disability or in a wheelchair are stronger than they think and anything they want to achieve in life, they can get there no matter what."And they have many a win to prove it!
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