Ray Losionek is definitely a person who has overcome adversity and moved on to live a full and productive life. It's hard not to be inspired by his journey. But Ray doesn't think his achievements are out of the ordinary, but merely the result of a "can do" attitude. He will tell you it's simply just a part of who he is and an understanding of what he wants.
And Ray definitely knows what he wants. Ever since he saw a report on a hand-cycle, which is a bike that sits low to the ground and is operated by the arms, he knew it was for him. This was something he could do to keep himself fit. It also provided the opportunity to keep him challenged, both physically and mentally in retirement.
Learning to walk
You see, Ray is a double amputee. When he was eight years old he fell under a Sydney tram. He broke numerous bones and spent many months in hospital after having partial amputations to both his legs.
Ray says, "It was back in the 50s, and there were no organisations or facilities around like there are now. Artificial limbs back then were very rudimentary. And there were no modern wheelchairs like today. But I knew I just had to learn to walk again".
Ray's parents had just immigrated to Australia five years before the accident. They couldn't speak English and living conditions were very basic. And so, it was decided by them that he be placed in a 'crippled children's home' to get the care and rehabilitation he needed.
It was a hard time for all concerned. Ray only had visits from his parents once a week and they had to travel quite a distance to see him. And his own progress was very prolonged due to plaster casts and pressure sores. But in a gradual but slow process, he eventually went from crutches to walking sticks. And then he went from walking sticks to no sticks.
"It was a fantastic feeling knowing that I could now get around without support. Being able to walk short distances by myself, it was decided I could go home. But to give me more mobility, I was given a tricycle and learnt to ride this before being discharged."
Ray eventually went on to become a fitter and turner, and in time owned his own business, married and raised four boys.
Retirement was his next big step, and then a new challenge. Ever since first setting eyes on a hand cycle, Ray was hooked.
"Through the organisation Disability Sport and Recreation (DSR), I ventured into hand cycling on one of their 'come and try' days. After three months, I purchased a racing hand cycle and competed in the National Hand Cycling series. For an old guy, I thought I was doing quite well winning medals and trophies in the interstate competitions", says Ray.
Cycle Power tours
At the age of 67, Ray has retired from racing, but continues his participation in long distance rides and overseas trips with DSR. So far, and through the DSR CyclePower tours, Ray has cycled through Vietnam, Cambodia, Fiji and Thailand promoting sports for people with disabilities in these countries.
It's Ray's hope his story will inspire and encourage others into sport and recreational activities. He believes there is something for everyone regardless of age or ability.