UNSUNG HERO: Inspiring 'have a go' attitude



Over the past couple of years, Eleebana’s John Domandl has raised $200,000 for charities such as Retina Australia, the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Hunter Medical Research Institute and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

He is uncomfortable with the term ‘‘hero’’ – he thinks of soldiers, policemen and firemen as heroes, not himself.

‘‘I’m a person who just likes having a go,’’ he said.

But on hearing his achievements, readers might agree he certainly deserves a big pat on the back.

Because to raise this money, the 51-year-old personal trainer and all-round sportsman has cycled thousands of kilometres and run hundreds of miles, all with limited vision.

He has a degenerative eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa.

‘‘All through school I had bad eyes, but it’s a progressively deteriorating condition,’’ he said.

‘‘It has affected me in different ways. If I want to do something, I have to try that little bit harder, or go that little bit further – things aren’t as easy for me as everybody else, but still, there are people who are a lot worse off than me.’’

Mr Domandl, who has 20 to 25 per cent vision, trekked the Kokoda trail in 2005, represented Australia in athletics at the 1988 Paralympic Games, has run in 19 City To Surfs, has competed in marathons, ultra-marathons and triathlons, and also completed the arduous Six Foot Track Marathon.

He is now training for the Canberra Half Ironman and the Melbourne Ironman.

‘‘I’ve been involved in tandem bike riding for the past couple of years because my eyes have deteriorated so much,’’ he said.

‘‘There are several challenges with a charity ride, especially if you’re going to ride 1000 kilometres in six days.

‘‘I normally don’t use the one pilot all the way through, I’ve got a network of friends to ride different legs with me.

‘‘On one of the legs for Ride For Retina (from the Gold Coast to Sydney), the current World 24-Hour Mountain Bike champion Jason English rode one of the stages with me, and that was an absolute thrill.

‘‘In 2010 I did a charity ride called 1200 Kilometres For Kids to raise money for the Sydney and Brisbane childrens’ hospitals.

‘‘I think it was close to $180,000 that we raised for that one. We dug deep and really hassled people to raise that money, and I can proudly say I’ve been part of organisations that helped raise nearly $200,000 for charities in the past couple of years.

‘‘My partner Kim Jenkins and I were also privileged to be invited by sailor Tony Mowbray to be involved in a fund-raising venture for Yalobi Village in Fiji.

‘‘We took nearly 100 kilos of gear – books, clothing and fishing gear – over for the villagers and the school in September.’’

GIFT: John Domandl runs and cycles for charity.  Picture: Mark Connors

GIFT: John Domandl runs and cycles for charity. Picture: Mark Connors