PARA-ATHLETE Blake Carr will mark turning 25 next Saturday by flying to Brisbane to represent Australia at the INAS Global Games, the world's biggest sporting event for athletes with intellectual impairment.
While hopeful of a medal to coincide with his birthday, he is keeping a level head.
"At the moment I'm just focusing on one day at a time," Carr said.
"If my performance warrants a medal then so be it, but I'm trying not to work myself up too much and don't want to put all my hopes in one basket then see it crumble.
"I'm treating it like any other international meet.
"I'm focusing on what I want, but enjoying myself is really the main reason behind it."
Carr has only been competing in high level athletics for three years but has already represented his country three times.
The past 12 months have been the most challenging of his life and sporting career, involving a back injury; attending his beloved grandmother's funeral the day before the Australian Athletics Championships - "the hardest thing I've had to do in my life" - and serious nose surgery.
"My dad taught me that bad things happen in life but you've got to keep pushing," he said.
"You can't let the bad things keep you down forever, you have to push yourself to keep doing what you enjoy. I feel most comfortable on the track, it's what keeps me happy."
Carr, who has autism, had dabbled in athletics but was mostly involved in rugby league while attending Hunter Sports High.
When a concussion ruled out football, "athletics was the only thing left and so I gave it a crack".
He joined the school's Talented Sport Program when he was in year 12, in 2013.
He started training with coach Shaun Fletcher and joined Macquarie Hunter Athletics Club in 2016, representing Australia for the first time that year at the Melanesian Championships in Athletics in Suva.
He returned to the competition in 2018 in Port Vila and also wore the green and gold at this year's Oceania Athletics Championships in Townsville.
"I feel very privileged and honoured, but at the same time you have to treat the singlet with respect and dignity," he said.
"I have to put time and effort into it because I'm representing Australia but also my friends, family, state and city at the same time. A lot of people would give anything to do what I do."
He usually competes in the 100 metre and 200 metre sprints, the long jump and discus throw, but attempted the 110 metre hurdles for the first time late last year in an attempt to qualify for the INAS Global Games.
He injured his lower back and completed what is usually three weeks of intense rehabilitation in two, before breaking the national record in his category.
Carr said autism was not a barrier to success.
"Everyone has goals and dreams... the only person stopping you is you."
He said he was grateful to his parents, Mr Fletcher, his friends, Jenny Barrie and sponsor Lake Macquarie Private Hospital for their support.