Losing her sight at 17 was a huge setback for Jessica Gallagher - until she discovered an unexpected path to Paralympic glory.
The Bachelor of Applied Science (Complementary Medicine) and Master of Osteopathy graduate shares what she has learned along the way.
"I was born with a rare degenerative eye disease called Best's disease and I am legally blind.
"I've always had vision problems, but it wasn't until Year 12 that I was diagnosed, after my sight had deteriorated more significantly.
"I had been recently diagnosed with my vision loss, I didn't know who I was as a person, but I knew that osteopathy was a profession I wanted to pursue at RMIT.
"It was a whole new world of trying to figure out how I was going to study an intense program with only 8 per cent vision.
"The head of the Osteopathic program, Dr Ray Myers, took me under his wing. I am so grateful for the Disability Liaison Unit at RMIT and Dr Myers, they encouraged and supported me, and always ensured I had the help I needed while studying.
"I found out about Paralympic sport in 2007, in the first year of my Master degree. As a child all I wanted to do was represent Australia, so I was shocked to discover that I could still compete despite being legally blind.
"I'd never been exposed to anyone with a disability before, so to discover the Paralympics and then be able to qualify for Beijing was a dream come true.
"Sport doesn't discriminate. It doesn't matter whether you're able bodied or you're disabled, we all want to win just as badly and we put in just as much effort, regardless of whether it's a Paralympic Games or an Olympic Games.
"I completed the research project component of my Master at RMIT while training for the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, which was an amazing stage of my career. I was living the life I'd always wanted to as a full-time athlete, competing in long jump, shot put and discus.
"Unfortunately the day before the opening ceremony I had some eye classification tests done, and one of my eyes was eligible and the other was 0.01 degrees too-sighted.
"It was heartbreaking, I was a 21-year-old girl who'd been banned from competing.
"The specialists in China consoled me in the testing centre and told me that my eyesight was going to get worse in six months.
"It was a bizarre experience because I was devastated that I wasn't going to compete, and I was devastated because I was going to lose more of my eyesight, but I was supposed to be happy about that.
"It was very challenging and ironic. I would miss out on all of these things as an athlete, but I would eventually get them because I was going to lose my eyesight."