by Craig Heydon
Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch are two significantly different personalities, but when they joined together on the water everything just clicked, with the pair winning gold in the Skud 18 at London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Daniel Fitzgibbon & Liesl Tesch with their gold medals
A year on from their biggest win Fitzgibbon said that his first feeling after crossing the line for the final time was relief.
'It was total relief,' said Fitzgibbon. 'We had a long campaign and it built up inside of you over the years, I could feel myself getting fuller and fuller and then finally there was a sense of relief. The thing that stands out from that day is that I went home and slept, I could feel the tension and pressure disappear.'
Fitzgibbon said that being on the podium and hearing the Australian national anthem being played as the flag was raised was something he hadn’t been prepared for.
'Personally I’d never thought about the anthem and the flag, it wasn’t something I’d prepared for,' he said. 'We’d been so absorbed in the regatta process that I’d never thought about winning but it was an awesome feeling to be up there.'
Fitzgibbon and Tesch teamed up in 2010, winning their first regatta together, going on to finish on the podium at every regatta they contested, culminating in London 2012 gold.
For Fitzgibbon it was gold at his second Paralympics, after winning silver in 2008, while for Tesch she was on the top step of the podium for the first time at her sixth Games.
Tesch is an accomplished Wheelchair Basketball player, having competed at five Paralympic Games, winning two silver medals and a bronze along the way.
'After winning gold at my sixth Games I had this feeling of joy and bliss and elation, and a happiness I’ve never ever known before,' said Tesch. 'It left me on a high which I’m only just starting to come down from, after a whole 12 months!'
The success at London 2012 was tinged with sadness for Tesch as her mother passed away after the first day of the regatta, but she said her mother’s memory pushed her on.
'It was a tough week and I still can’t believe I got through it all,' said Tesch. 'It was possible because of the amazingly great team I was a part of in London. The Skud team was fantastic, supportive and understanding and having my partner Mark there as a spectator was gold.'
After winning gold the pair headed north to London, and Fitzgibbon said that heading to the centre of the action was something he’ll never forget.
'For me the most memorable part of the Games was returning to London and seeing how big that actual event was,' he said. 'London had completely embraced the Paralympic movement and it was amazing to be a part of it. We’d been in a vacuum down in Weymouth and hadn’t been exposed to what was happening in London, it was great to get up there and be a part of the buzz.'
In the year since London Fitzgibbon has gotten married and is taking some time away from sailing, with Tesch taking every opportunity she can to continue to train and race, with the pair setting their eyes on defending their gold at Rio 2016.
Australian Sailing Team