Three days after the death of his mother, Paralympian Timothy Disken found the courage to compete.

When Timothy 'Disko' Disken won a silver medal in the 4x100m medley relay at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics on Friday, it came with a tangle of emotions. 

The 24-year-old was "so proud" of his performance and those of his teammates, but he was also heartbroken. 

Just three days prior, Disken's mother, Jenny, passed away back home in Australia. 

"We lost my mum on Tuesday night and just trying to get up to race tonight was hard in itself," Disken told Channel 7 after the race. 

"The support from the team has been phenomenal. I couldn’t be in a better spot for the heartbreak I’ve had over the last 72 hours."

Disken posted to Instagram after his mother's death, writing that he felt "lost, confused, distraught, in shock and just empty".

"Sometimes, life just isn’t fair. I’ve lost my number one supporter, my rock and my best friend. The pain is unimaginable, and losing you is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure," he wrote.

"Without your undying love, grit, determination, stubbornness (sometimes to your own detriment) and unwavering support I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Heck, I wouldn’t have even survived day one."


Disken was born prematurely at 24 weeks with diplegic cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that results in muscle stiffness.

He started swimming at age four as part of his physical therapy and began competing at 10. 

He debuted for the Dolphins — Australia's national swim team — at the 2014 Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships where he won gold and bronze. 

Two years later, he won three medals at the Paralympic Games in Rio, including in the men's 100m freestyle S9.

Disken's path to his second Paralympic Games has been an arduous one. 

Having suffered a stroke at six months old which resulted in hydrocephalus, Disken relies on a shunt to divert excess cerebrospinal fluid away from his brain. One afternoon in 2017, while in Canada for a competition, that shunt broke. Disken was rushed to hospital unconscious, and underwent life-saving emergency surgery.

He managed a spectacular recovery, returning to elite competition just six months later to claim two medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Australia's silver medallist 4x100m medley relay team: (L to R) Timothy Hodge, Timothy Disken, William Martin and Ben Popham. Image: Getty.


On Friday night, he went after another Paralympic medal, not just for himself, but in his mother's memory.

"I will carry all that you’ve taught me, throughout the rest of my years, for both of us️," he wrote on Instagram.

"Truly lost, scared, and frightened without you. I’m forever grateful to have someone as special as you, as my mother.

"I hope to go out there on Friday and make you proud, whatever the result."

In a statement, Swimming Australia extended their sympathies to Disken and his loved ones.

"It’s hard to put into words what Tim is going through at the moment and we’re all deeply saddened by his mum’s passing," Australian Swimming Team Head Coach Brendan Burkett said.

"To lose your mum is devastating and every single member of our team is supporting him through this emotional time."

With the Toyko Paralympic swimming program now over, Disken is due to join his teammates on a charter flight back to Australia on Monday.

Due to border regulations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he will be required to stay in hotel quarantine for two weeks before he can be reunited with his family.

Feature Image: Getty/Instagram/Mamamia.