AFTER speaking for two hours, Tony Christiansen became an instant hero to those who were inspired by his stories.
He was swamped by his new-found fans, seeking autographs or a photo opportunity at the talk organised by the Centre for Extension Education (CEE) of the Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar) and Malaysian Mental Literacy Movement (MMLM).
The 52-year-old told the 700-strong crowd, including MMLM chairman Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik and wife Toh Puan Ena Ling: “The things that I have done — car racing, flying a plane, scuba diving, skydiving, etc — are ordinary, what makes them extraordinary is that I have no legs.
The 1m-tall Christiansen delivered the talk standing on a scaffolding (which he climbed on to without anyone’s help).
He lost his legs in a railway accident when he was nine years old and his life took a dramatic change.
Instead of blaming the accident for ruining his life, he made the most out of it and completed many feats that most people only dream of doing.
He married at the age of 21 and is blessed with three children and a grandchild.
At 27, he bought a sign-writing company and led it to become one of the largest commercial sign-writing businesses in New Zealand.
The Paralympic gold medallist in shotputt, discus and javelin, also climbed Africa’s highest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro, in 2002.
He is also known as the best-selling author of Race You to the Top and Attitude Plus.
Christiansen never felt that life was unfair and he could have achieved greater things if not for the accident.
“I was only down for 10 minutes in 1967. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself,” he said.
Besides sharing his life stories and his “passion for life”, Christiansen showed videos of him conquering Mt Kilimanjaro, flying an aircraft, being involved in a nerve-wracking race car crash, throwing opponents over his shoulder in the taekwondo ring and more.
The audience watched the clips with bated breath and gave him a big applause for being a living example that there is nothing we cannot achieve as long as we believe in ourselves.
Some, who were amazed that Christiansen has accomplished so much more that an able-bodied person, actually told him: “You’re lucky to have been run over by the train.”
“Challenges bring out the best in me. Instead of sitting around and waiting for something (bad) to happen, create the change and be the best,” he said.
At the end of the talk, Christiansen demonstrated his second-degree taekwondo skills by chopping four piled-up wooden boards with luck, blame, anger and regret written on them.
“We often think others are lucky and we are not, and we always blame others and think it’s somebody else’s fault.
“Then we get angry at the thought and later, we think of all the should have, could have and would have,” he said.
Christiansen encouraged the crowd to break these barriers and say I am, I can and I will every day.
“Change your attitude and change the way you perceive yourself, it won’t cost you anything,” he said.
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