Having only started wheelchair racing two years before making his Paralympic debut in London, Rheed McCracken is well-placed to become a legend in the sport. In his short career, he has already claimed eight podium finishes at world championships and Paralympics.
Born with cerebral palsy, which causes extreme tightness in his leg muscles, forcing them to internally rotate, Rheed displayed determination and passion for sport from a young age. Prior to discovering wheelchair racing, he participated in the ambulant 100m, 200m, discus, shot put and long jump at his home club, West Bundaberg Little Athletics.
Rheed was 13-years-old when the strain of ambulant sport caught up to him, and following multiple surgeries, he made the decision to begin using a wheelchair. Still determined to pursue a career in athletics, Rheed attended a junior development camp, but it was a chance meeting with Channel 7 media personality, David Koch, that would propel him into Paralympic stardom.
Seated next to ‘Kochie’ on a plane, the two struck up a conversation about his long time sporting idol, Kurt Fearnley. Having known Kurt for years, Kochi offered Rheed the opportunity of a lifetime when he challenged him to compete in a wheelchair race in Sydney to meet his hero.
In 2011 Rheed debuted for Australia at the IWAS World Games in Sharjah, where he won one gold and four silver medals to qualify for the London Games the following year. These achievements signalled a strong Paralympic campaign for Rheed, who won silver in the 100m and bronze in the 200m, leading him to be named the APC Junior Athlete of the Year, alongside star swimmer, Maddison Elliott.
At the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Rheed put up another solid performance, medalling in both his events. Trying his hand at middle-distance racing, he crossed for third in the 800m.
Rheed has been in the best form of his life in the leadup to London, breaking the world record over 100m in Switzerland in June 2017. He clocked 14.92 to eclipse the record held by Tunisia’s Walid Ktila. The performance by Rheed has setup a potential showdown in London, with Ktila having won the last two global meets, 2015 IPC World Championships and 2016 Paralympics. In those races Rheed placed fourth and second, respectively.
Hailing from Bundaberg on the North Queensland coast, Rheed races with a superman logo taped under his chair in honour of his late friend and wheelchair racer, Tyson Cooper. He carries the Superman logo with him to symbolically fulfil Tyson’s own Paralympic dreams, and in a twist of fate, won his first Paralympic medal on what would have been Tyson’s 23rd birthday.
At the prestigious Swiss Wheelchair racing series in 2018 Rheed set a new world record in the 100m of 14.80.
Rheed’s main goal in life is to become a successful Paralympian. To him this means more than just winning gold, but also to be remembered for giving it a “red hot crack”. His hobbies include: fishing, watching television and listening to music.