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Janine Shepherd, AM ( born 7th January 1962) is an Australian author, aerobatics pilot and former cross-country skier. Shepherd's career as an athlete ended when she suffered life-threatening injuries when hit by a truck during a training bike ride. Before the accident, she had been in contention to win Australia's first ever medal at the Winter Olympics. Though she was told she would never walk again or have children, and doctors had significant doubts as to whether she would survive at all, she defied all of these, and her story later became the focus of national attention, as well as a popular telemovie.
Shepherd had been an athletics champion as a child, winning several national titles by the age of 10. Though she was talented at a number of sports, she settled on cross-country skiing. After achieving success on the World circuit, she was given the offer of training with the Canadian team in the leadup to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
In 1986, Shepherd was cycling through the Blue Mountains in New South Wales as part of her training regime, when everything changed. She was hit by a vehicle, suffering massive injuries. She suffered a broken neck and back, lost five litres of blood, suffered severe lacerations to her abdominal area. Her right leg was ripped open, her collarbone and five ribs were fractured, and she suffered serious internal injuries. Doctors at first thought she would not live, but she pulled through. She was then told that she would be bound to a wheelchair for the rest of her life, and would never bear children.
Over the next few years, Shepherd began to go through the slow rehabilitation process. She was determined to defy the predictions set by her doctors, and succeeded in doing so. While still remaining a partial paraplegic, she was ultimately able to walk again, and has three children. She gained her pilots license within a year of the accident, and went on to gain a Commercial pilot's licence, an instructor's license, eventually becoming a trained aerobatics flying instructor. She also became the first female director of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Shepherd has written five books about her experiences. The first, Never Tell Me Never was made into a successful telemovie, with Shepherd being played by Claudia Karvan. She also has a Bachelor's degree in Human Movement/Education.
She was a torchbearer at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney. More recently, Shepherd took up dressage in an attempt to represent Australia at the 2004 Summer Paralympics, despite suffering from chronic back pain.
Shepherd is an ambassador for Spinal Cure Australia and has been awarded her country’s highest civilian honour, The Order of Australia, for her service to the community, her inspiration and her work in raising awareness of spinal cord research. In 1998, Shepherd was also awarded the title of an Outstanding Young Persons of the World, one of ten young people recognised annually by the Junior Chamber International. Her story has appeared on Australian '60 minutes', This is Your Life and ABC's 'Talking Heads'. Shepherd's TEDx talk in Kansas City, 'A Broken Body isn't a Broken Person', has been viewed millions of times. She is on the motivational speaking circuit, and currently resides in Wyoming USA.
- Never Tell Me Never (1995) (ISBN 0-7251-0747-2)
- Dare To Fly (1998) (ISBN 0-09-183721-9)
- Reaching For Stars (1998) (ISBN 0-09-183986-6)
- On My Own Two Feet (2007) (ISBN 978-1-74166-046-3)
- The Gift of Acceptance (2012) (ISBN 978-1-74269-560-0)