Why Kyle Maynard is the world's most inspiring athlete

The first time Kyle Maynard ever shaved, like most adolescents, he cut himself. But instead of minutes, it took him "hours" to shave his whole face.

The first time he ever put on socks himself, he was 14, The first sock took 30 minutes. The second took 15.

It wasn't until he was 18 that Maynard even had a name for the condition he was born with: quadruple congenital amputation. It means his arms end at the elbows and his legs end at the knees. His parents encouraged him to persevere with that first shave, the first time he fed himself, the first time he typed – even though it took him ten, twenty times longer than his younger sisters.

Last night, he stayed up "well into the night" coding his own website – which he taught himself to do.

Climb every mountain

When he owned his own CrossFit gym, Kyle entered the CrossFit Open. Stone Mountain, the world's longest continuous slab of granite, was on the climbing itinerary in Atlanta, where he grew up. It took Maynard's gym buddies 25 minutes to scale the 900m. It took him 1 hour 45. That night, he stated his intention to climb one of the world's most formidable mountains. "My friend told me I was effing crazy because I'd just tore all the skin off my arms doing Stone Mountain."

By the time Maynard climbed 5895m to the summit of the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro, he kept pace with all other climbers in his group. Which would be unremarkable except for one fact: Maynard bear-crawled to the top, on all fours, head facing down.

He couldn't even see his climbing friends or the view: only the dirt. No prosthetics: Maynard rejected those aged 5 and never went back.

Inspiring others like him

Speaking to me on Skype in his first Australian interview, Maynard credits his upbringing with his can-do attitude. But his parents were bringing him up pre-internet, before support communities formed around his condition.

"I think about that a lot," he says, before a long pause. This week, on his motivational speaking tour circuit, Maynard met a 3-year-old called Francis, another amputee.  "He's the cutest thing ever and was born just like me. I can tell he's already aware of his disability. Staying in touch with the parents of kids like Francis is really important to me, because my parents had no-one."


No excuses, no holding back

By 19, Maynard was a published author with his motivational book, No Excuses, a champion wrestler (he lost every one of his first 35 matches, but through sheer perseverance, went on to win his next 35) and ju jitsu fighter. He'd also been on the couch with Oprah telling her he was single, with a cheeky glint (she called him "one of the most inspiring men you'll ever hear about.") Today he's on Bumble and has met some "cool people."

As the first ever quadruple amputee to crawl up Mount Killy, video footage of Maynard accomplishing this stunning feat has now had over 22 million views. He didn't stop there. That same video shows him scaling Argentina's Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Southern and Western hemispheres (1000m taller than Mount Kilimanjaro), which "almost broke" him.

But the video that has introduced him to the world beyond the US almost never happened: "It's funny because we nearly didn't do the video – it took too much time away from focusing on the climbing! I can't believe how many have seen it now."

A Nike ad for the 2016 Olympics was also viewed by millions.


New peaks to conquer

Now aged 30, he has yet another summit in his sights: Mount Kosciuszko, Australia's highest peak. "Australia's super high on my list, I'm really keen to get there. I want to do Kosi – that'd be fun! Australian girls are super cute too. I'd especially love to do one of the extreme challenges there like Iron Man or something in the water, like shark diving."

What mindset is required for him to achieve such incredible heights?

"I've obsessively studied psychology and philosophy but ultimately you have to get out of your own head and find strength somewhere deeper: in your gut. In your heart. Sometimes, ignore the brain: it's wired to help you survive and ask 'what the heck are you doing? This is stupid.'"

He also visualises a green sugar jar which his Grandma, a big influence on him, gave him as a kid: "She'd come up with things to get me to use my arms to get accustomed to stuff and I could only fit one arm in the jar. It took me two, three, four hours to get that damn sugar out the jar but it was so rewarding when I could spill it everywhere."

A measure of his ability

The month I speak to Maynard, research revealed Australia has one of the lowest global rates of employment for people with disabilities. It fires him up: "I'm not an advocate for perpetual support or dependence on disability support. I'm fully behind the people who need it, but I can't stress enough that employing people with disabilities helps companies perform better because they're more diverse and it gives staff new perspectives."

And an essential question for any American right now: what does he make of Trump, especially given alleged (and disputed) reports of him belittling disabled people: "Does Trump say some crazy stupid stuff? Sure. Do I think he harbours hatred towards people with disabilities? No. The message I want to show Trump is the message I want to show the world: every single person on this planet has disabilities. I cannot look at you and see what your biggest disabilities are. You can't look at me and see what my biggest ones are. The no-arms or legs are an afterthought in comparison with the internal, emotional, psychological struggles. You can just see them more easily."