Deb Roach is DRIVEN. A woman on more than one mission, Deb is both an athlete and an advocate. These days, she spends much of her time in training, either as a paracyclist or pole dancer.
On March 15th, she won her division at the International Pole Championships in Hong Kong. Deb learned to ride a bike just 16 months ago and has progressed to national racing level, with hopes of one day representing Australia at the paralympics.
Once suffering from chronic illness, depression and anxiety as a congenital amputee, Deb found health and happiness in her early twenties through fitness and her involvement in both dance and running.
It was the observation of a stranger that her abilities were inspiring and allowed for no excuses that lead her to trade her career in IT for one in the fitness industry in 2008. She is committed to her vision of sharing the benefits of physical activity with the world and worked as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at Fitness First in Bond St.
After FILEX last year, she began volunteering for fit for good and, after hosting a talk series at Mission Australia, became their ambassador for the gym at common ground in Camperdown. This year, she left her career behind to participate in Leaders for Tomorrow, a national disability development program, focusing on her athletic career, as well as her project, Accessible Wellness.
Aiming to help improve both quality of life and physical function, Accessible Wellness is a health and fitness facility exclusively for people with physical disabilities. Aligning with both the centre’s values and her own, Deb has scheduled the grand opening for IDPWD 2013.
A History Lesson
Growing up in Sydney suburbia with a disability in the 1980s, Deb saw her opportunities and possibilities as limited. Her environment led her to believe that, for any hope of a successful future, her focus would have to be academic, leaving the physical and aesthetic realm for able-bodied members of society.
But Debzillah loved to dance. She sang before she could talk and spent much of her childhood wiggling in front of the family television to music clips by Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Roxette. However, lacking self esteem, it wasn’t until the age of 10 that she mustered the courage to attend her first jazz ballet class. These confidence issues significantly impeded her progress as a dancer in a group situation.
In her late teens, Deb started going to Sydney’s more obscure underground nightclubs to dance the night away. She learned to DJ, did some alternative modeling and even stage dancing. Her confidence grew and she started regularly attending dance classes at Sydney Dance Company. In time, her focus gradually shifted from the things she couldn’t do right because her movements weren’t the same, to what she could do, and then to testing the boundaries of what really is possible.
In late 2006, inspired by a circus themed double act she saw at a club where she was stage dancing, Deb took up both pole dancing and aerial circus arts. Her passion was ignited and she has never looked back.
Winning a pole dancing competition against a bevvy of beautiful, talented, able-bodied amateur pole-dancers in 2009 completely remodeled Deb’s world view forever. That experience of winning showed Deb that her possibilities are limitless. More often than not, the thing holding us back is inside us. We just need to choose differently!