Raised in the sunny Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, Duane was an able bodied, competitive triathlete, until 1990 when his life changed.
Having had a fall off his bike during a training session, he was put on heavy pain medication and advised to rest. 18 months later a neurosurgeon recognised that something was medically amiss and found a benign spinal tumour in his back. At 22 years of age, an operation to remove the tumour resulted in partial paralysis.
Not one to dwell on things or have a negative mind set, Duane channelled his focus towards the freedom of movement that swimming provided. He found a coach, established a swimming programme and set some goals. Incredibly, he made his Paralympic Games debut just five years later – competing at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games where he won a staggering four gold medals, a silver and a bronze.
Retiring as a Paralympic athlete following the Atlanta 1996 Paralympics he carried on his passion, going on to be Team Manager at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics Games and Chef de Mission for the New Zealand Paralympic Team at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympics.
In 2013, he was elected to the IPC Governing Board and in 2017 Duane was selected as Vice President, helping to lead the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement to drive social change through the inspirational performances of Para athletes internationally.
He continues his national involvement today as a board member of Paralympics New Zealand.
And if all that wasn’t enough, he was appointed by the International Olympic Committee to the Evaluation Commission for the 2024 Paralympic and Olympic Games, one of just 14 people worldwide to be appointed on the commission.
Somehow, he also finds the time to be a wonderful husband and father to his two children, and an inspiring mentor to Para athletes of the future.
Article first appeared on Paralympics.org.nz