Paralympian's medal tribute to fallen soldiers

Curtis McGrath of Australia stands on the medals podium at Lagoa Stadium during day 8 of the Rio...
Curtis McGrath of Australia stands on the medals podium at Lagoa Stadium during day 8 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. Photo: Getty
An Australian war veteran born and raised in Queenstown was racing for a fallen comrade when he won the first Paralympic title in the men's KL3 canoe sprint in Rio.

Like every time he competes, Curtis McGrath picked one of eight names of his fellow engineer soldiers who died in combat in Afghanistan since 2001, and raced for them, AAP reported.

McGrath (28) was born in Queenstown and attended Wakatipu High School before his family relocated to Brisbane, where he became a combat engineer.

He won the first Paralympic title in the men's KL3 canoe sprint at Rio's Lagoa Stadium yesterday.

The his acheivement would not sink in until he got home.

"I'll drink some decent coffee and reflect on the wounds that have healed and the people that have helped me get here," he said.

McGrath lost his legs four years ago when he stepped on a landmine while serving in Afghanistan.

Despite his injuries McGrath, as the first-aid medic for his unit, instructed the soldiers around him to perform first aid.

As he was being flown safety, the then 24-year-old made a vow to the men who helped save his life that they would see him see him represent his country again - not on the battlefield, but on the Paralympic sporting field.

McGrath was neck and neck with Swoboda until the halfway point of the final, but powered home.

"It's actually a carbon copy of our race in the world champs this year," McGrath told AAP.

"He's ahead at the 100m mark and I gradually kick into another gear and cruise over."

The Queenslander has big plans for the future.

"I'd like to go to Tokyo, pick up another sport, but we'll see how we go,"
 

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