Team Sunrise
Daniel Fitzgibbon

Daniel Fitzgibbon

Sailing

Their Journey

"Sailing is my life. The freedom. The love for the water."

Daniel Fitzgibbon

Daniel has been racing sailboats his entire life. Growing up on Brisbane’s Bayside, he followed his father’s footsteps and started sailing Sabots on Waterloo Bay from a very early age. He soon developed a passion for sailing and his skills improved rapidly achieving great results including being crowned the state champion.

This early success fueled Daniels’ Olympic dream and he stepped up to the 420 youth class and Olympic 470 class to gain further skills and experience. State championship success and the Olympic dream led Daniel to Sydney where he was competing in the 1997 Sydney Olympic Classes Regatta. During this regatta, at the Yacht Club, Daniel was involved in a terrible accident that left him a C5 Quadriplegic at the age of 20.

Despite now being confined to a wheelchair, with no hand function, Daniel returned to his passion and won the 2004 Disabled Sailing World Championship in his class, showing his drive and determination to succeed. He went on to be named the 2004 Australian Sailor of the Year with a Disability and the 2004 Queensland Sailor of the Year.

With a belief now instilled in him, he now focused on his new dream, the Paralympic dream. Daniel used his experience and developed adaptations for the two-person Skud 18 Paralympic boat so that he could sit in and steer it competitively. They then focused their energy on competition and training. In 2008, Daniel’s dream of winning a Paralympic Medal came true at the Beijing Games where he won the Silver Medal.

 

But for Daniel, Silver wasn’t quite enough. “Being on the podium (in Beijing) was awesome, seeing the Australian flag was great but hearing the American anthem was terrible,” he said. “It was an empty feeling and just wasn’t our moment, that feeling has spurred me on to make London our moment.”

With a performance gain needed for London, Daniel paired with an unlikely crewmate – six-time Paralympian and wheelchair basketball champion Liesl Tesch. Impressed with her qualities shown on a 2009 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race documentary, Daniel contacted Liesl about a possible sport swap and the pair began training in early 2011. Less than a month later, they went on to win their first ever competition together at the Sailing World Cups in Miami and Weymouth and two World Championship bronze medals. The foundation was there and the pair trained and devoted their lives to ultimate success in London.

In London Daniel masterminded the regatta of his life. Despite the tragic passing of Liesl's mother on day one of the Games, the pair steeled themselves for the dogfight with the UK and US teams and came out on top. Not only did they win Australia's first gold medal in the event, they did it with a day to spare with a record low score. The victory allowed Daniel to release his demons of 2008 and live his dream of watching the Australian flag being raised and hearing Advance Australia Fair over the backdrop of England's Portland Harbor.

Following the Games their amazing achievements have been recognized with many prestigious awards. These include the 2012 Paralympic Team of the Year, 2012 Australian Sailor of the Year with a Disability award and the 2012 Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club (RPAYC) Yachtsman of the Year award. On Australia Day 2014 Daniel was recognized for his services to sailing with an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for this he is immensely proud. Daniel and Liesl have gone from strength to strength since London remaining undefeated in their class winning both the 2014 and 2015 Para Sailing World Championships as well as numerous Sailing World Cup Events.

Today Daniel is working with the RPAYC on their innovative “INTEGRATED disAbled SAILING” (IdS) program. The aim of this program is to integrate people with a disability into the normal sporting and social events of the club. Daniel believes that Integration not separation is the next step for disabled sailing and is working hard towards this goal. Daniel is a current member of the Australian Sailing Team and the Australian Paralympic Team.

Daniel Fitzgibbon, Sailing

Latest News

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QUICKIE 7R Series Lightweight Wheelchair
Daniel Fitzgibbon

Daniel Fitzgibbon Uses...

QUICKIE 7R Series Lightweight Wheelchair

"My QUICKIE 7r wheelchair opens up my world beyond the water. Lightweight to take wherever I want, the Xtender power-assist opens up just as many possibilities on land as sailing does at sea."
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Road to Glory

2016

Paralympic Games (Rio)

Gold Medal

2015

SKUD 18

World Champion

2014

SKUD 18

 World Champion

2012

Australian Institute of Sports

Team of the Year Finalist

Australian Paralympics

Team of the Year

Paralympic Games (London)

Gold Medal

2008

Paralympic Games (Beijing)

Silver Medal

2004

IFDS (Singles)

World Champion