As a youngster growing up in a small rural town in south-western Queensland, Janine Watson became heavily involved in community and representational sport, leading to a successful career in Exercise Science and Secondary Education.
At 25, Janine was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a progressive, debilitating disease where the body’s immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord and for which there is no known cure. Shortly afterwards, she decided to take up Taekwondo and within nine months had won her first Australian Championship. With no place in Para-sport for people living with MS, Janine competed against able-bodied athletes, winning multiple state, national and international titles in sparring and Poomsae.
By 2015, Janine’s MS had progressed to the point she was no longer able to compete safely against able-bodied athletes. With no classification category in Para-taekwondo available for her to continue sparring, she concentrated on the Poomsae side of the sport and won gold medals at three consecutive World Taekwondo Championships between 2015 and 2019. Janine also took up the sport of Wheelchair Tennis during this time winning four consecutive Australian Singles titles between 2016 and 2019 and becoming Australia’s number one female in Wheelchair Tennis.
In July 2018, Janine received notification that athletes with a neurological impairment, such as MS, were now being included in the classification category for sparring. After a three-year break from sparring – and with only three weeks of training before her first international tournament – she won a bronze medal in Korea. Janine is now set to make history as Australia’s first and only Para-athlete to compete at the Paralympics Games in the sport of Para-taekwondo, which makes its debut in Tokyo.