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Matt Podjursky putting his best foot forward to defy disability

Unless you looked closely you probably wouldn’t know Matt Podjursky suffers with the lasting effects of an often debilitating disability.

 

The 19-year-old was born with clubfoot, a conditions where either one or both feet are rotated inwards or downwards.

 

In Podjursky’s case, his left foot was 180 degrees upside down and his right foot was 90 degrees inwards.

 

He spent the first six weeks of his life with both legs plastered. Every second week they were soaked off before going to hospital to have his feet slightly twisted and realigned before plastering again. That process lasted several months.

 

His first operation came at just three months old. Each foot was practically cut in half from one side of the ankle to the other. His heel was reconstructed and two pins were put in place to hold it all together.

 

In total he had three operations each lasting three hours and for the next six months he was in half fiberglass plaster.

 

What it means now is that his ankle sockets are squared. He has very limited ankle movement. He can’t run, or jump and he spent much of his childhood on the sidelines of most sporting activity, which left him open to being bullied at school.

 

His salvation? Motor racing.

                       

“I always knew that it was going to be that little bit hard for myself,” Podjursky told velocitynews.co.nz.

 

“Looking back at it now I’ve had to adapt a lot of little things like the heel-and-toe and other things that other drivers would find quite easy.

 

“I don’t have a lot of movement in my ankles. I’ve had to adapt all the way through, whether it’s been karts or car racing.”

 

Podjursky began racing karts when he was seven-years-old before moving through to Formula First where he raced for three years.

 

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Podjursky's Ford Falcon TL at his home track Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon 

 

He currently races in Class Two of the BNTV8s, the second division of New Zealand’s top flight touring car series.

 

With such high force needed to slow the cars down under brakes, it’s an added physical challenge that Podjursky faces. Adding to pressure he has to exert on his ankles is the limited movement. Because of that he can’t blip the throttle in the same way other drivers can.

 

His Ford Falcon TL has been modified to suit, with the brake and throttle adjusted to be closer together.

 

“For me it’s quite hard. Especially now that I’m in a V8 where the braking pressure is so high and really demanding.

 

“I’ve changed and tried different things all season. I felt I hit the nail on the head with how to do it last season. The biggest thing for me was getting my foot across and I can’t really do that.

 

“I’ve got a very tiny gap between brake and throttle. It doesn’t take much to hit both pedals. It’s not too bad, it’s just an added challenge.

 

“It’s a good challenge to have and it’s made me who I am today because I’ve got to fight that little bit extra for that tenth or two. It’s worth it.”

 

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Matt Podjursky and the Podjurky racing family 

 

Training to be fit enough to race is another task he has to overcome. He’s had to find other cardiovascular exercises like cycling and rowing so that he’s not jarring his ankles, otherwise they swell up and he’s unable to walk.

 

Podjursky recently graduated the New Zealand Elite Motorsport Academy where his team won.

 

“I definitely found the physical stuff tough with not being able to run. The team down there were really supportive and encouraged me as much as they could and I did as much as I could as well.”

 

His brief touring car career is on the up. At the opening round of his debut season last year he led briefly at the ITM Auckland SuperSprint in support of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.

 

Every day he’s faced with the challenge, but it pushed him to try and be atop the pile.

 

“I get out of the car and five minutes after the team debrief I’ve got to put my feet up or put an ice pack on it.

 

“At the end of the day it’s a small price to pay when you love something so much.”

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