Three time Paralympic star Michael Roeger made a welcome return to Langhorne Creek on Great Southern Football League grand final day to be the special guest. Roeger spoke of his hunger to compete in Tokyo in 2021 and win gold and the toll mentally and physically the cancellation of the 2020 Paralympics had on him due to COVID. Roeger is a T46 (amputee) athletics competitor. He competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Paralympics in athletics and will compete in the Marathon in 2021, which he holds the world record.
The 32-year-old from Langhorne Creek has taken all before him in the T46 (amputee) category in the past four years, running in marathons all around the world. Michael is missing the lower half of his right arm.
His preparation has been "faultless", as he holds the marathon world record in his category.
In the London Marathon in April last year,Michael ran the 42 kilometres in 2 hours, 22.51 seconds to claim the world record and, in Houston in January, he broke his own world record by running 2 hours, 19.33 seconds.
Although all his plans have been sent into disarray due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Michael Roeger has a sensible head on his shoulders and is optimistic about the future.
"I know the postponement was the right decision. This disease is bigger than sport and has affected the whole world and I hope that we can get back to a relatively normal life soon," Michael said.
Although his short-term goals have changed for the track star, the end goal is still the same.
"The goal posts have just been moved," he said.
"One thing I know is that my goal is still to win the marathon in Tokyo. I just have to make sure I am feeling this prepared mentally and physically next year."
Michael is not just a world-record holder in the marathon, having held records in the 1500, 5000 and 10,000 metre events over the years.
"In January, in only my third marathon, I bettered my world record and ran 2.19 in Houston.
"This was a very special run for me, to go under two hours 20, and I had my twin brother Chris make the trip with me," Michael said.
The performance for Michael in the London Marathon last year was also an unreal experience for the boy from the Creek. The London Marathon coincided with the Para Athletics Marathon World Championships.
It was a big occasion for Michael and he needed to win the race, such is his drive to succeed in everything he does.
Coach Saunders had Michael in top condition, but not all went to plan. He had severe body cramps in the last five kilometres, but with sheer willpower, grit and determination, he ran to the line first.
"It was very special and to have Philo there was incredibly humbling. We had worked nearly 10 years together for that result," Michael said.
Michael Roeger may be based in Canberra and breaking records all around the world, but his heart is always in his home town of Langhorne Creek.
It is the place where he played his footy, basketball, tennis, cricket and table tennis while growing up and he has loved the success of the Langhorne Creek A Grade football team in the Great Southern Football League (GSFL) over the past three years.
"I've been loving the online stream the GSFL has from time to time, especially for the Creek games. It was great to have the opportunity to be here this year to see the boys win their third flag in a row," he said.
After the final siren, Michael was in his Hawk jumper and was as happy as any other supporter or player.
Like many, Michael is struggling to come to terms with the impact of the coronavirus, but understands it is a once-in-a-generation defining moment.
The level-headed world champion realises there could be much worse happening in society.
"We all will remember 2020 for the coronavirus. It is not just Australia, the whole world is in this and fighting this," Michael said.
"We are all in this together and we need to keep following the strict rules that are now in place and do everything we can to look after each other and stay positive.
"I think the better we all do this, the sooner we will be back to normal. I know for myself it's tough, but we will get through this and hopefully come out the other side better for it.
"We don't have to go to war, we are not getting shot at, we are not going hungry. We just have to isolate for a bit, maintain social distance and hopefully keep it under control and then in the near future there will be a vaccine. We can do this!"
Meanwhile, the Fleurieu and in particular Langhorne Creek, will be on the edge of their seats as the prodigal son prepares for and competes in Tokyo in 2021.