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Julie Van Keulen BEM
b. 7 December 1959
As a schoolgirl, Julie competed very successfully in a range of sports including netball, softball, swimming and athletics. Following an horrific car accident as a teenager, Julie showed enormous courage to overcome such a major setback for one so young. Confined to a wheelchair, new life skills had to be learned and one of the driving forces in her very successful rehabilitation was a burning desire to participate in sport again.
Her return to sporting competition began when she was selected to train with the Australian national squad in Melbourne in 1979-80. It was the start of what was to become a wonderful sporting career.
In 1981 she was chosen to represent Tasmania in athletics at the National Para Quad Games. This first national competition was very successful for Julie as she came home with 3 gold medals, in the javelin, shot putt and discus. Each of these medals was achieved with Australian record performances. It was a pathway for future national selection and later international acclaim.
Julie was selected in her first national team for the 1982 Far Eastern and Pacific Games in Hong Kong. She won medals in those same three events including a new world record in the javelin throw.
Further national representation in 1983 came which saw Julie compete in the Stoke Mandeville Games in England - regarded than as the World Championships for athletes with a Disability. At this level, that now renowned dedication and determination came to the fore once more and she won the javelin with another world record throw. A silver medal in the discus throw and a bronze in the shot putt added to a superb medal haul.
There were three more gold medals at the Australian national Games in Sydney the following year. These results ensured Julie was selected in the Australian team to compete in the first Paralympic Games held in London in 1984. Julie was the first Tasmanian ever selected in the Australian Paralympic team and she honoured that selection by winning another gold medal in the javelin.
Other honours followed her retirement from international competition at the conclusion of these Games. Three Mercury WD and HO Wills Star of Sport awards, a Sport Australia Award and the national Para Quad trophy for the best female athlete in international events, plus a TAS TV Sportswoman of the Year Award.
Julie was recognized in 1985 in the Queens Birthday Honours list with the award of the British Empire Medal for her services to athletics and her achievements as an athlete with a disability. A fitting tribute indeed to a great Tasmanian.
As an example to all young Tasmanians, Julie showed terrific determination and courage to overcome adversity and become the best in the world at her chosen event.