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John MacLean

Change Management, Leadership, Motivation & Inspiration, Olympians, Overcoming Adversity

Travels from Australia

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John MacLean Profile

  • After being hit by an 8-tonne truck, he was paralyzed from the waist down, but refused to let this stop him from leading a life of high achievement.

  • He is the first wheelchair athlete to finish the Ironman World Championship, be inducted into the Ironman Hall of Fame, and swim the English Channel.

  • Founder of the John MacLean Foundation, he has dedicated nearly three decades to helping children and adults in wheelchairs harness their abilities and achieve their dreams.

  • 25 years after his accident, he is learning to walk again thanks to his unwavering strength and a groundbreaking method of physical therapy called the WareK Tremor.
  • A role model and inspiration for audiences around the world, John MacLean is the first wheelchair athlete to finish the Ironman World Championship, the first wheelchair athlete to be inducted into the Ironman Hall of Fame, and the first wheelchair athlete to swim the English Channel. John uses his remarkable story, athletic triumphs, and philanthropic heart to motivate others to bend their challenges into successes.

    John’s promising rugby career was cut short when he was hit by an eight-tonne truck while riding his bike. Paralyzed from the waist down, he refused to let his disability define him, and went on to excel in several high profile athletic events including the Sydney Olympics and Paralympics, the Beijing Paralympics (where he won a silver medal in rowing), and the world’s most physically grueling competition, the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.

    He is the founder of the John MacLean Foundation, which since 1998 has improved the quality of life for children in wheel chairs by supporting the needs of low income children who experience paraplegia, quadriplegia, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and similar conditions. John encourages and enables them to harness their talents to achieve extraordinary things on their own terms.

    His recent book How Far Can You Go? details his life’s story with a focus on its most recent chapter: leaving his wheelchair behind to walk again with the help of NeuroPhysics therapist, Ken Ware and his ‘WareK Health’ trigger process. John continues to push himself in his progress toward mobility and his service to others.

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      During fitness training near his hometown in June 1988, John Maclean was hit by an 8 tonne truck as he rode his bike. The impact resulted in John suffering multiple breaks to his pelvis and back, a fractured sternum, punctured lungs, a broken arm, and left John a paraplegic. It took astonishing courage and determination, but somehow this near-fatal accident was the making of him.

      Despite the grief of what he had lost, the excruciating physical pain and the challenges of daily life in a wheelchair, John decided he would become bigger and stronger than ever. He set about proving himself in the toughest sporting events the world had to offer.

      In 1995 John made history by becoming the first wheelchair athlete to finish the course at world’s toughest multi-discipline sporting event – the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, drawing on all his inner strength to continue to the finish line after falling outside the able-bodied cut-off times in the bike section. The following year John narrowly missed the cut off time again, this time due to a flat tyre but proceeded to once again complete the entire course.

      In 1997 he not only finished within the able-bodied cut-off times, he beat a third of the field and became the first ever wheelchair category winner. In 2002 John became the first non-American inducted into the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon Hall of Fame.

      Despite the grief of what he had lost, the excruciating physical pain and the challenges of daily life in a wheelchair, John decided he would become bigger and stronger than ever. He set about proving himself in the toughest sporting events the world had to offer.

      Many more extraordinary sporting challenges followed, including becoming the first wheelchair athlete to swim the English Channel in 1998, and complete the grueling Molokai Ocean challenge in 2005 (World Championships for open water paddling). He represented Australia at the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and in 2001 he sailed in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

      In 2006 he took part in the invitation-only extreme endurance event, the Ultraman World Championships, in Hawaii. Early in 2007, John was invited into the sport of rowing. In September 2007 he and his rowing partner claimed a silver medal at the Rowing World Championships, and followed up with GOLD at the International Regatta in Italy in April 2008. John won Rowing silver at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games.

      Parallel to is sporting career, John sought to further focus his tremendous energy and determination on helping others, and established a charitable foundation in 1998. The John Maclean Foundation is now a national scale organization providing support and assistance to Australian wheelchair users under the age of 18.

      The foundation’s mission is to inspire, motivate and enable physically challenged kids to chase their dreams and live life to the fullest. Children, family’s and corporations across the globe find John’s wisdom and inspiration invaluable in achieving focus and delivering potential.

      John’s personal mission statement is “ONLY POSSIBILITIES” and when he approached NeuroPhysics therapist, Ken Ware in April 2013, John was living by this mantra. After 25 years as an incomplete paraplegic, John has taken his first steps towards achieving his dream to walk again, thanks to Ware’s ‘WareK Health’ trigger process.

      Although the wheelchair remains John’s primary mode of movement, this dramatic and extraordinary development is allowing him to rediscover life. It’s a journey in progress and John continues treatment to further improve his mobility.

      After 25 years as an incomplete paraplegic, John has taken his first steps towards achieving his dream to walk again, thanks to Ware’s ‘WareK Health’ trigger process. Although the wheelchair remains John’s primary mode of movement, this dramatic and extraordinary development is allowing him to rediscover life.

    John MacLean Speaking Videos

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    John MacLean's Speech Descriptions

    In business and in life, we all face obstacles and crossroads. While John MacLean’s own story is an extreme account of setbacks and facing up to them, he focuses on how anyone can find the inner strength to manage and even flourish through circumstances that can sometimes seem insurmountable. John shows corporate and general audiences alike how they can turn adversity into a vibrant energy that will allow them to achieve so much more.

    John is able to tailor his presentation to fit in with the themes and goals of your event. Rather than simply turn up on the day, John will work with you prior to your event to ensure the maximum impact on the day and leave a lasting impact on your attendees.

    John's presentation includes incredible footage from his remarkable career achievements, from which he has the ability to present on a number of themes including:

    • Transformation: Choice, change and adaptability
    • Self Belief: See it, believe it, achieve it
    • Persistence: Never give up
    • Leadership: Building a team
    • Engagement: Prioritization
    • Balance: Self, family, business, community
    • Teamwork: Connecting for a common goal
    • Inspiration: The pain won't last forever, but the memories will
    • Community: Giving back
    • Humility: Remember where you're from

    What People are Saying about Seeing John Speak

    Rating Entries

    “John is the most inspirational speaker that I have seen. That is saying a lot considering the 100s of professional speakers I have been exposed to. His story is amazing, delivery flawless and his resonating connection with every one of our team members will remain forever. We as a leadership team have never had so much positive feedback about an outside speaker. Inviting John to speak to your team will be one of the most significant things you do for your team.”
    – Radek Sali, Chief Executive Officer at Swisse Wellness Pty Ltd

    “This is the 2nd time I’ve seen and heard John’s story. Amazing to see the progress he’s made and his attitude to life is infectious. It’s quite incredible that he had stayed so positive despite the extreme cards he’s been dealt. Clearly that positive, ‘can do’ attitude counts for a lot and it’s a lesson to us all on how to keep going in the face of an incredibly challenging situation. On both occasions I’ve seen him speak, he’s had the whole room in the palm of his hand and left everyone feeling very uplifted. He was also a pleasure to deal with on the lead up to the event, nothing was a problem for him.
    If you’re looking for a strong motivational speaker who tells a personal story that we can all relate to, John is your man. I look forward to seeing how the next part of his journey unfolds.”
    – Keith Buckley, Managing Director (Australia and New Zealand) at McAfee, part of Intel Security

    “I cannot recommend John highly enough for any conference or motivational appearance. He would be the best speaker I have ever heard (and I have heard dozens). Not only is his international standard story inspirational it also has practical messages that can translate into any business. He makes you proud to be an Australian. You would be mad to look past John for any conference or event.”
    – Janine Allis, Founder of Boost Juice Bars

    “We recently had John speak at our annual Heritage Bank Retail Conference for the second time, the first was some five years ago.
    John received a standing ovation from our group of over 150 staff as he provided an update on his truly inspirational story. John’s humble delivery of his story along with his clarity of message had all of our staff hanging on his every word. He received the highest score (9.5 out of 10) of all our guests and entertainers and had true impact on our staff on many levels. The truly amazing thing is that many of our staff have already taken some action in their lives as a direct result of John’s presentation. His presentation will be remembered for a long time to come!”
    – Paul Francis, General Manager of Retail Services at Heritage Bank

    “John’s story of overcoming adversity and setting himself remarkable goals was well received by our audience. John captivated our audience and everyone was so inspired by his story. Afterwards, I had grown men tell me they had to fight back tears. John was an absolute pleasure to deal with and really went well beyond our expectations.”
    – Katrina Camage, Executive Assistant to the CIO, Lion Corporation

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    Books by John MacLean:


    How Far Can You Go?

    Walking on the beach while holding a loved one’s hand is a simple wish realized by many and taken for granted by most, but after John Maclean was struck by an eight-ton truck while training for a triathlon at the age of twenty-two, this wish became an impossibility. After 25 years in a wheelchair, John had become one of the most accomplished wheelchair athletes in the world: he was the first wheelchair athlete to complete the Ironman World Championship, the first non-American inducted into the event’s Hall of Fame, and the first paraplegic to swim the English Channel. He even competed in the Olympic wheelchair demonstration race and in two Paralympic Games in two different disciplines, winning a silver medal for rowing. And yet, John longed for one more victory: to walk on the beach with his wife holding her hand. In 2013 John began to access his full potential by retraining his mind and body, and, through intense focus and determination, stand, walk, and fulfill his dream.

    How Far Can You Go? is his amazing story. It delves into not only the physical aspects of John’s journey, but also the mental fortitude to push through the impossible.

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