Visually and hearing impaired Paratriathlete Jonathan Goerlach, suffers from Usher Syndrome Type II, meaning he has moderate hearing loss, no peripheral vision, is night-blind and has only tunnel vision. But having discovered a passion for Paratriathlon, he’s also discovered a passion for winning. And with the Paralympics firmly in his sights, he’s working hard to get there, one race at a time.
It’s not often you come across a combination of raw talent, steadfast focus and sheer determination, but in Jonathan Goerlach, you’ll find this and more. As a relative newcomer to the sport of Paratriathlon, it’s hard to decide what’s more inspiring – his achievements with his disability or the fact he’s made such incredible progress as a paratriathlete in such a short time. It’s probably a bit of both.
Raised in Nowra, Southern NSW, Jonathan Goerlach was diagnosed with hearing loss when he was three and has been wearing hearing aids since. Fiercely passionate about sport, even as a youth, for Jonathan it was a case of which sport he would focus on as he excelled at whatever he tried.
However after years of bumping into things and brush-offs from optometrists, at 15, Jonathan was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome Type II – a hearing and degenerative visual impairment. Having lived for sports, the first thing he asked was, “Will I still be able to play sport?” Jonathan remembers the look on his Mum’s face. The car ride home was the only time he cried about it. Jonathan gave up sports completely as his eyesight started to deteriorate. If he couldn’t do it well, he wouldn’t do it at all.
Battling the loss of his sight, depression and the reality of life with his disability, Jonathan spiraled downwards, until, knowing he needed to take control of his life with a disability, he headed overseas for a fresh start.
While working in Amsterdam as a Sports Massage Therapist, he worked with many clients who were runners. Hearing their stories inspired Jonathan to pull on his running shoes again and to start to train seriously with a running squad.
Life changed for Jonathan with the announcement that Paratriathlon had been accepted into the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Having always been interested in Triathlon, he realised this was his sport.
And it’s now become his life.
Jonathan competes in the - PTVI Visually-Impaired category in Paratriathlon. He is coached by Luke Whitmore who is also one of Jonathan’s fast racing guides, which is a must for Jonathan so his guide doesn’t hold him back from being as fast as possible! Jonathan is also guided by Physiohealth’s Simon Hearn who will be racing with Jonathan at the 2017 Elite Paratriathlon World Championships in Rotterdam this September. If his paratriathlon ambitions weren’t enough, Jonathan is also studying at University of Canberra for a Bachelor degree in Sport Management.
Jonathan has been selected as a member of Triathlon Australia’s High Performance ‘Winning-Edge’ Squad, and in 2017 successfully defended his title at the Australia and Oceania Paratriathlon Championships for the fourth year running. He has a heavy schedule of local and international races planned for 2017 including ITU World Paratriathlon Series races. Jonathan has gathered the right people and resources around him to help him work towards his goal, race by race.
“When I was first diagnosed, my family were thinking “what now?” But for many parents of disabled children, I am the “what now?” I’m what their disabled child can be too.”
Jonathan is a regular speaker at events and is proud that he can make a difference and inspire others, particularly disabled youth.
Jonathan’s message is not so much about his disability, but rather his ability that he’s found as a result of his disability. He can and he is. And that’s something that everyone needs to hear and see, not just those with a disability.
“Whether you have an ability, a disability, or both, the power of sport can change lives. It’s changed mine.”
Help support Jonathan Goerlach continue his journey as an elite Paratriathlete competing on the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Paratriathlon Series circuit. The ITU series includes races in Australia, Europe and Asia. Jonathan is seeking support to cover the cost particularly in relation to time away from work to attend training camps and for the purchase of equipment. For races such as the Australian Nationals, Oceania Championships, and key training camps Jonathan will need to cover both the cost of flight and accommodation for himself and his race guide. Your support will go a long way to helping Jonathan with his preparations for the ITU races and the World Championships.