shepherd_reach_cover_200.jpg Janine Shepherd, AM, (1962- )

Australia Day honors
Friday 26 January 2001

Member of the Order of Australia
Janine Lee Shepherd, Avalon, NSW.

Citation: "For service to the community through inspiring others to strive in circumstances of the greatest difficulty, and through promoting the work of the Australasian Spinal Research Trust in finding a cure for spinal cord injury."

Introduction | 'Saddling Up' for 2004 | 'Like Mother, like daughter !'

'Lights, Camera, Action!' | Professional Speaker | Commercial and Aerobatic Pilot

Author | 2000 Olympics Torch Bearer | News Maker | Links

Janine Shepherd : An Introduction

Janine Shepherd

Janine Shepherd is a person of incredible courage and strength. A gifted athlete in training for the Winter Olympics, she was hit by a truck while bike riding and was not expected to live.

Her injuries were horrific - her neck and back were broken in four places, as were her right arm, collarbone and five ribs, her right leg had been ripped open, she had sustained massive internal injuries, severe lacerations to her abdominal area and had lost five litres of blood.

With a future as a world champion cross country skier and the holder of numerous national titles in athletics, Janine was destined for sporting greatness. Janine was told she could not hope to ski again, may not walk again and would not be able to bear children. Her dreams seemed shattered. Despite seemingly impossible odds, Janine fought back. Determination, a fighting spirit and the support of family, friends and medical staff all contributed to Janine's incredible recovery.

Not only did she walk again, have two children and return to university and gain a degree in Human Movement, she took up flying and gained her private pilot's licence, commercial licence and her instructor's permit.

Janine's remarkable story is told in her widely acclaimed book Never Tell Me Never. She was featured on 60 minutes and her tale has been told in various publications. The hit movie Never Tell Me Never starring Claudia Karvan as Janine was widely acclaimed and shown on National Television.

A true inspiration, Janine is a motivating and moving speaker. She has spoken to a wide variety of audiences including addressing the Queen's Trust Future Prospectives Forum as the inspirational speaker. Her presentations focus on her new life philosophy drawing on her journey from tragedy to triumph.

Janine Shepherd : The Next Challenge : The 2004 Olympics


NSW Team member Janine Shepherd with Sharni
(Jacananda Tisharna), June 2000

Janine Sheperd is new to riding. She has partial paraplegia after an accident well documented in her book "Never Tell Me Never". Well here she is with Jacananda Tisharna who is having her first aromatherapy treatment in preparation for the State Disabled Dressage Championships in July. Janine had just been assessed as a Grade 4 competitor after riding for only 6 months. This is a remarkable achievement for an able-bodied rider and you can expect to see Janine and Sharni competing at many competitions to come.


NSW Team member Janine Shepherd and "Rock of Gibralter"
owned by Merle Speakman.

National Dressage Championships For Riders with Disabilities
Friday 7th, Saturday 8th, Sunday 9th September, 2001
National Equestrian Centre, K Road, Werribee, Victoria


Janine Shepherd (NSW) congratulated by Caroline Leiutenant
for her 2nd placing

National Dressage Championships For Riders with Disabilities
Friday 7th, Saturday 8th, Sunday 9th September, 2001
National Equestrian Centre, K Road, Werribee, Victoria


Janine Shepherd (NSW) and Judy Hogan (WA)

National Dressage Championships For Riders with Disabilities
Friday 7th, Saturday 8th, Sunday 9th September, 2001
National Equestrian Centre, K Road, Werribee, Victoria

Annabel Blake : Like Mother like Daughter !

"I know what I can do and what I reckon you can do let's see what we can do together"

Tudor House Equestrian Fun Day Event on October 28

Annabel Blake (10 yo) & Tara 12 yo 13.2 hh Liver Chestnut Arab/ASP Mare

shepherd_annabel_tara_200.jpg Partners for only 6 months, Tudor House FDE was the first outing for Annabel Blake and Tara and the ideal casual affair to check each other out for eventing potential.

Annabel chose Tara because she's one of those rare and desirable ponies that can turn on the right moves for dressage and then shift into jumping mode.

Annabel and her mother Janine Shepherd agree she seems just the match to take on the challenges of eventing that Annabel is itching to square up to.

So how did Tara measure up at the FDE? Courage? Check - Tara was definitely more excited than daunted around the cross country course. One forgivable refusal as she followed a horse who did it first. Clearance? Check - a clear round of the show jumps with again only one refusal. Agility? Check - nippy and confident around the flags.

The verdict? With both partners alert, able, full of vim and out there learning the balance of power in the relationship, Tudor House could mark Day One for this determined duo.

FDE - ODE - 3DE? CC.


Janine with Angus, Annabel and Charlotte, 12 May, 2000

Newsphotos, News Limited, Ref #06297566

Janine Shepherd : The Telemovie : "Never Tell Me Never"


Janine Shepherd with Claudia Karvan
during the making of the Telemovie "Never Tell Me Never"


Claudia Karvan as Janine Shepherd
in the Telemovie "Never Tell Me Never"


Claudia Karvan as Janine Shepherd
in the Telemovie "Never Tell Me Never"

click photo to invert


Claudia Karvan as Janine Shepherd
in the Telemovie "Never Tell Me Never"


Claudia Karvan as Janine Shepherd
in the Telemovie "Never Tell Me Never"


Claudia Karvan as Janine Shepherd
in the Telemovie "Never Tell Me Never"

Janine Shepherd : Professional speaker in Motivation/Inspiration

Never tell me Never
Janine Shepherd : Professional speaker in Motivation/Inspiration

Janine Shepherd is a person of incredible strength and courage. A champion cross country skier in training to represent Australia at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, her life was irrevocably altered when she was run over by a truck during a bike ride to the scenic Blue Mountains of New South Wales and was not expected to live.


Janine Shepherd in Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney, 1988

Her neck and back were broken in four places, and her right arm, collarbone and five ribs fractured. her right leg had been ripped open, she had sustained head injuries and massive internal injuries. She had severe lacerations to her abdominal area and had lost five litres of blood. The bleeding alone was enough to kill her. Despite a remarkable recovery, she was told she would not walk again or bear children. Against seemingly impossible odds Janine fought back.

Coming to terms with her shattered Olympic dreams, refusing to believe what expert medical staff were telling her about her chances of any kind of recovery, Janine focused every sinew of her being on healing her broken body and crushed morale.

Her fighting spirit was rekindled watching small planes fly overhead. She made a decision: "If I can't walk, I'll fly." And fly she did. Within a year she had her private pilot's licence, her commercial licence, then her instructor's licence.

With amazing determination and fighting spirit, Janine not only walked and had two children, she returned to university and gained a degree in Human Movement.

Her story is told in her widely acclaimed book Never Tell Me Never, which has now been made into a feature film. In April 1997 she published Dare to Fly. Janine is a motivating and moving speaker.

Janine is a warm and highly inspirational speaker who takes her audiences on a journey of hope, despair, shattered morale and personal courage.

Janine Shepherd : Professional speaker in Motivation/Inspiration
Based in Auckland, New Zealand
For bookings, contact Speakers NZ; Phone ++64 9 537 5375, Fax ++64 9 537 5376

Janine Shepherd : Commercial Pilot and Instructor, Aerobatics Instructor


Janine Shepherd and VH-OXX, a 'Pitts S.2A Special'


Janine Shepherd and VH-OXX, a 'Pitts S.2A Special'


Janine Shepherd flying VH-OXX, a 'Pitts S.2A Special'


VH-OXX, a 'Pitts S.2A Special' in its 2000 livery

Sydney Aerobatic School


Janine Shepherd and her exNZAF Victa T-6 VH-MUM

Janine Shepherd : Successful Author

abstracts taken from the now now seemingly abandoned Janine Shepherd website?

shepherd_never_cover_200.jpg Never Tell Me Never
Pan Macmillan Australia

On an afternoon bike ride in the Blue Mountains Janine Shepherd's life was altered irrevocably.

When the champion cross country skier in training for the Winter Olympics was hit by a truck, doctors warned her parents that she was not expected to survive her ordeal. The bleeding alone was enough to kill her.

Even if by some small chance she recovered, she would never walk again.

Coming to terms with her shattered Olympic dreams, refusing to believe what expert medical staff were telling her about her chances of any kind of recovery, Janine focused every sinew of her being on healing her broken body and crushed morale.

Her fighting spirit was rekindled watching small planes flying overhead. She made a decision: "If I can't walk, I'll fly." And fly she did. Within a year she had her private pilot's licence, and then obtained her commercial licence, Multi engine and Instrument ratings, her Instructor's licence and is now a qualified Aerobatic Instructor. Never Tell Me Never is her story, testament to the power of the human spirit, and one that will move and inspire all who read it.

'If ever there was a perfect example of the power of one, this is it.' : Bryce Courtenay

'The ultimate in dedication, achievement, determination, accomplishment... A celebration of life' : Sara Henderson

'If gold medals were awarded for sheer guts and determination, Janine Shepherd would have truckload' : Herald Sun

'A story of remarkable strength, endurance, discipline and inspiration' : Gold Coast Bulletin

shepherd_dare_cover_200.jpg Dare to Fly
Random House Australia

Janine's story continues in Dare to Fly, a heartwarming and inspirational account of her journey of recovery - not only physical, but also emotional and spiritual - and of the people she has met along the way who were inspired by Janine and who, in turn, continue to encourage and inspire her.

As she writes in Dare to Fly, 'We all need to know that no matter what happens to us in this life, we are never alone.' Janine Shepherd's story is a testament to the power and resilience of the human spirit, and one that will truly move us all to 'Dare to Fly'.

and from the Random House website....

Dare to Fly
By Shepherd, Janine

"This is the kind of courage that should win a gold medal for living' Bryce Courtenay commenting on Dare to Fly"

In 1994, Janine Shepherd published the first part of her autobiography, Never Tell Me Never. It became a smash hit, selling 13,000 copies in hard cover and 70,000 copies in C format paperback (so far). The success of the book introduced Janine to public speaking and she is now one of the most sought after speakers on the lucratuive speakers circuit, appearing two or three times a week to groups of up to 20,000 people and travelling all over Australia and to Bali and Hawaii.

Never Tell Me Never is the story of Janine's amazing fight to survive an horrific accident. A superb athlete, she was training for the cross-country skiing in the 1988 Winter Olympics when the bike she was riding was hit by a truck. Her neck and back were broken in four places, her arm, foot and collarbone were broken, she had severe head injuries, internal bleeding and horrific, gravel-filled lacerations, and had lost an enormous amount of blood. She was airlifted to emergency surgery, where the doctors who examined her doubted she'd last the night. No one recovered from that kind of trauma.

But Janine's entire life to this point had been geared towards fighting the impossible, ignoring her pain and pushing herself beyond normal reserves of strength and stamina. And she wanted to live. Her doctors were astounded by her determination and will to live, though they assured her that she'd never walk again. Janine chose not to listen to them. And while she was teaching her legs how to walk again, she learnt how to fly a plane, just so she could be in motion again. They also told her she'd never be able to have children. She and her husband have just had their third child.

Since the publication of her extraordinary and inspiring story, Janine haas been inundated with letters and messages of support and thanks. People in circumstances similar to hers have been enormously buoyed by her spirit and courage. She has literally been bombarded with letters asking 'What happened next?', and every time she addresses groups, they can't find out enough about her life since Never Tell Me Never. Because she is such a warm and engaging person (as you would have seen at the conference last December), people feel as though they know her, as though she is their friend, so you can imagine how excited they will be to find out that the long awaited sequel to Never Tell Me Never is about to be published.

Like The Strength in Us All, Sara Henderson's bestselling sequel to From Strength to Strength, Dare to Fly takes up where Never Tell Me Never ends, and follows Janine through the publication of her book,. the ensuing attention and tremndous support from all kinds of people, the birth of her first two children and her careers as a pilot and a public speaker. She focuses most intently on the people she meets who give her the strength to keep going - she is still in a lot of pain, is still having considerable corrective surgery, and is a partial paraplegic.

If Never Tell Me Never was a celebration of one woman's resolve and sheer determination not to give in against overwhelming odds, Dare to Fly is about how people can help each other find the strength and commitment they need to follow their dreams. Janine now finds her strength in the letters and messages she gets from people who have been moved and inspired by her story in Never Tell Me Never; Dare to Fly will touch people in the same way, and inspire and comfort all who read it. Janine writes in the epilogue:

I reread the letter with tears running down my face. I had struggled for so long, wondering whether the ordeal of writing was worth it. Suddenly a bit of magic arrives - perhaps from my own guardian angel - and I am reminded that my work hasn't finished. Not a day goes by when I do not thank God for this wonderful opportunity of giving and for all the love I reap as a result.

I have heard so many stories and met so many wonderful people since my accident; they have all affected my life, enriched it in a way that has changed it forever. They are my continual source of inspiration and my reason to push on. My home is filled with their amazing stories. They are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We all need to know that no matter what happens to us in this life, we are never alone. Others have gone before us, to pave the way, to give us hope for the future.

Come to the edge, he said.
They said, We are afraid.
Come to the edge, he said.
They came,
He pushed them...
and they flew

Guillaume Apollinaire

The paperback edition of Dare to Fly will include an extra chapter about the birth of Janine's third child, Angus, and what it felt like to be surprised by Mike Munro and This is Your Life - she hated it and couldn't believe her family and friends had successfully kept it a secret from her for so long. Janine will also write about the movie of Never Tell Me Never, which has just been filmed and will be released in March 1998. Claudia Karvan plays Janine and is apparently brilliant - early word on the movie is that it's incredibly moving and really inspirational, just like Janine's books !

Subject: Autobiography/Biography
ISBN: 0091837219
Imprint: Random House Australia

shepherd_reach_cover_200.jpg Reaching for Stars
Random House Australia (Out of Print)

Janine Shepherd is an inspiration in anyone's book.

Her bestselling autobiographical books, Never Tell Me Never and Dare to Fly have won her legions of fans all over Australia, as did the recently screened movie of Never Tell Me Never.

Wherever she goes, Janine is approached by people who have been moved and inspired by her books.

They always ask her where they can get copies of some of the poems and motivational passages she reads out during her speeches - poems and works which encouraged her at some stage of her struggle, or which were sent to her by people undergoing similiar trials.

In response to the thousands of requests from readers and literary lunchers all over Australia, Janine has compiled Reaching for Stars, Reflections on a journey through life and living, which brings together her favourite inspirational verses and motivational quotes, as well as her many observations of her own.

The book takes the form of a journey, culminating in Janine's thoughts about what her own unbelievable journey has taught her: that love is the most important thing of all - without it, we are nothing, but if we love and are loved, we are capable of anything !

"Your destiny can be a matter of choice or of chance"

Inspire : A Website for Creative People with Disabilities
Issue 1 for 1999 : Talking Books : Never Tell Me Never

I'm a devotee for true stories so it comes as no surprise that I read the book Never Tell Me Never with vigor. Never Tell Me Never is the true story of Janine Shepherd's fight back to life after a cycling accident in the outskirts of Sydney.

The sports mad Janine was at her athletic peak when in May 1988 at the young age of 24 she was hit by a truck and thrown from her bike (during a cycling trip in Sydney Blue Mountains). The near fatal accident left her with numerous broken bones. The most seriously being her neck and back (broken in 4 different places). Janine also sustained massive internal injuries, severe abdominal lacerations and partial paralysis. Her detailed autobiography is proof of Janine's gutsy determination to beat the odds (on the brink of death) and triumph over this horrific ordeal.

From the age of seven Janine joined the Little Athletics Association so she was very much sports orientated. Regarded at one time as being a top ranked cross-country skier, she was in training to hopefully represent Australia and compete in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. She writes in her book, "I was drawn to cross-country skiing because it was the ultimate endurance sport". Her will to win Gold was unshakable and she had planned to train in Canada to achieve her goal. Her dream was shattered and irrevocably altered on that fateful day in May.

Janine begins to give readers an account of waking up in the hospital which at that time she was in a state of total confusion. The excruciating pain that gripped her body was overpowering. She drifted in and out of consciousness for days and then her world became a series of nightmares that were both disturbing and frightening. With a list of injuries that seemed to never end doctors fought forward and continued battling to stabilize Janine's condition. For Janine's parents the whole experience was unbearable. Overcome by worry they fought to keep a grip on their emotions as their child lay motionless in the bed before them.

For the first few months Janine fell into bouts of depression, but that soon disappeared for her fighting spirit was still intact and she wasn't ready to give in. Despite the doctors telling her she may never walk again she was quite adamant to not only walk again, but to ski again. No matter what anyone said to the contrary. Each day was a new challenge filled with the desire to succeed. With Janine's health improving doctors allowed her to go home on weekends. This was a dream come true for her road to recovery was well and truly becoming a reality.

While her Olympic aspirations might have been shattered she soon found a new passion in flying. In one year she gained her private pilot's license. Within two years her commercial pilot's license and then her instructor's permit. A remarkable achievement considering she has very limited feeling in her legs.

Janine's story continues in the sequel Dare to Fly This book was just as heart warming as the first. Once again Janine tells readers of her personal struggle and feelings in healing her broken body and gives an insight in to her family life. As a wife and mother. Janine felt that not only was writing her book a major part of her healing process, but it gave inspiration to many people facing similar predicaments. So much so that her autobiography, 'Never Tell Me Never' was made into a telemovie.

She insists her story is not unique, but Janine Shepherd is certainly a testament to embrace life and live it to the fullest!

Janine Shepherd : Olympic Torch Relay Runner


Olympic Torch Relay Day 82, Runner 82-134, Janine Shepherd
Newcastle to Gosford, 28 August, 2000

Newsphotos, News Limited, Ref #20046162


Olympic Torch Relay Day 82, Runner 82-134, Janine Shepherd
Newcastle to Gosford, 28 August, 2000

Newsphotos, News Limited, Ref #20046063


Olympic Torch Relay Day 82, Runner 82-134, Janine Shepherd
Newcastle to Gosford, 28 August, 2000

Newsphotos, News Limited, Ref #20046061

Janine Shepherd in the News

listed in chronological order

The Sky's Her Limit
Christine Hogan, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 Apr 1997

Dare to Fly
Alfred Holland, Newcastle Herald, 07 Feb 1998

Never ? Never !
Rachel Browne, Sun Herald, 03 May 1998

A New Way to Win
Ali Gripper, Sydney Morning Herald, 04 May 1998

Janine to Get a Jet Ride of a Lifetime
Malcolm Brown, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 Oct 1998

Pain barrier no obstacle to sporting desire
Newcastle Herald, 29 Aug 2000

The Sky's Her Limit
Christine Hogan, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 Apr 1997

She overcame horrific injuries to walk again. Now Janine Shepherd is flying - and motivating others with her amazing story.

At first glance, Janine Shepherd appears so normal she just about defines the concept. A sweet-faced, green-eyed blonde in her mid-30s, Shepherd has a husband and two little daughters. There are some bantams in the backyard, an albino rabbit and a comfortably spreading blue heeler. Together they form the very picture of domestic bliss and normality in a rambling house on a large block near Pittwater in Sydney's north.

Under her T-shirt, Shepherd has got muscle tone in her upper arms that suggests a custom for women at her age and stage of life - regular visits to the local gym. To complete the mundane picture, she even drives that suburban cliche for middle-class mothers, a white Volvo station wagon.

No matter how ordinary she looks, Janine Shepherd is not normal. A decade ago she was a sporting dynamo, dreaming of Olympic glory. Then, in an instant, the promise was obliterated.

A near-fatal accident left Shepherd a partial paraplegic with no feeling in her feet or her haunches, wasted calf muscles and a plate in her upper arm. She has a fused spine, fused toes and faces an uncertain medical and surgical future - more operations, possible osteoarthritis, constant antibiotics to combat the regular infections she suffers because she has to self-catheterise.

Normal? Not a bit of it. She's a walking, talking marvel who flies planes, is a motivational speaker and a successful author.

"Janine is a pretty extraordinary, focused human being, one of the most focused I have ever met. Her body was pretty much a write-off, but she came back," says film producer David Elphick, who is working on a movie that traces her life from Olympic hopeful to folk hero.

"Janine's an elite individual," agrees Dr Adrian Cohen, who first encountered Shepherd in the spinal unit of Sydney's Prince Henry Hospital more than a decade ago. The two became friends and have stayed in touch throughout Shepherd's fight back from the brink of death. "She's a remarkable person with incredible determination."

"Janine is a never-say-die woman," says Jane Palfreyman, publishing director of Random House Australia. "When she starts to tell her story, it's just electrifying."

Janine Shepherd's story is incredible - at once so horrifying and so life-affirming that Palfreyman got goose bumps listening to it for the first time. "You must write this story," Palfreyman told Shepherd.

That became Shepherd's first book, Never Tell Me Never. A best-seller after publication in 1994, it has since sold about 80,000 copies in hardcover and paperback. Her second book, Dare to Fly, has been prompted by public reaction to that initial story.

In Australian publishing, Shepherd is a younger, hipper version of author Sara Henderson, the woman who translated her own experience of running a property at Bullo River in the Northern Territory, raising children and managing an increasingly despondent husband into an autobiographical series beginning with From Strength to Strength, constant speaking engagements and a place in the national consciousness.

Like Henderson, Shepherd is a regular on the speaking circuit. She's a proven motivator who's in demand at conferences throughout Australia and overseas, and can command about $4,000 a speech. Last year, she gave 35 talks in all, including two in Bali, two in New Zealand and one in Hawaii. The year before she did 40.

And her realm is expanding. She's collaborating with (David) Elphick and writer John Cundill on the screen adaptation of Never Tell Me Never, she has negotiated the sale of the publishing rights to NTMN into Japan, another book is in the works and she is planning for the arrival of her third child in August. But first, she's off on a two-week promotional tour of Australia and New Zealand for Dare to Fly.

Janine Shepherd is on stage in a gloomy and cavernous function room at a golf-oriented resort on the Gold Coast. Outside on the emerald greens, Karrie Webb is trying to win the Australian Ladies Masters. But the real drama is inside as Shepherd relives her past, particularly the past 11 years of it. She's retelling her story and it has reduced some of her audience to tears.

This is Shepherd at work, sharing her journey to hell and back. This time, she's addressing about 200 independent travel retailers near the end of a four-day conference. A combination of sun, surf, golf and a looming gala dinner seems to have sedated them.

Shepherd had been relying on the crowd to lift her since she's feeling a little flat. "I always find it difficult to leave home, to leave the girls, particularly on the weekend," she says to Good Weekend during her flight to the Gold Coast. "The sun was shining, they were playing, my dad had come over to mow the lawn ... I miss them so much, even when I am away for short periods of time."

On stage, no anxieties are evident as Shepherd launches into her speech, a speech she makes entirely without notes. Dressed in a floral shirt, a skirt which grazes the ankles and flat lace-up shoes, she's folksy, irrepressible, bold and courageous. She's an incarnation of Pollyanna, writ large. At the outset, it sounds as though she's talking to the local preschool mothers' club. Shepherd opens with a poem that ends: "He started to sing, as he tackled the thing that couldn't be done ... and he did it !" taking her audience back to the beginning of the Janine Shepherd saga.

"I was not an easy child. I was a brat, an absolute brat ... I started my athletics career at the age of six. I represented the State in netball and softball, I was a NSW triathlon champion," says the woman who revelled in the nickname "Janine the Machine". "If I had a choice between training over flat country or hilly country, I would take the hard road. I learned to love the hills.

"My goal was to put Australia on the map as a force to be reckoned with in cross-country skiing. I was training for the 1988 Winter Olympics and nothing on earth was going to stop me." She pauses for effect, because something did. A utility truck stopped Janine Shepherd, aged 24, in her tracks. And just about killed her.

Shepherd set off on a bicycle training ride up the Blue Mountains one afternoon at the end of May, 1986. After almost five hours on the road, close to the end of the ride, she was knocked off her bike.

Now, she describes her injuries matter-of-factly: a broken neck, back broken in four places, five broken ribs, a broken right arm and collarbone, broken bones in her right foot. She had massive internal injuries and the right side of her body was ripped open from her ankle to her torso and filled with road gravel. "I lost five litres of blood, my blood pressure was 40 over nothing," she says, then makes a joke: "I was having a bad day."

Shepherd tells her increasingly fascinated audience an epic of horror and gore, of near-death and despair, of recovery and repair. It's a classic in the motivational speech genre, a message from a survivor who confronted seemingly insurmountable odds, faced death, and came back to tell the tale.

In the aftermath of that catastrophic split second, Shepherd found herself in the middle of a nightmare that went on for years, one which changed her life completely. Dreams of Olympic medals disappeared as she struggled during almost six months in the spinal unit of Prince Henry Hospital to get back on her feet. Cross-country skiing wasn't her aim anymore - walking was.

The grit required to survive such an ordeal is chronicled in Never Tell Me Never. Shepherd opens the book with the moment she regains consciousness after the accident, "my body consumed with pain".

Close to death and saved principally, possibly only, by superb physical condition, Shepherd describes the immediate aftermath, then relentlessly, she continues with a long, painful and protracted recovery and rehabilitation that saw her not only walk again, but undertake new challenges.

It's a story that's hard enough to listen to, but only she knows what it was really like. "It's probably everyone's worst nightmare, to be in a spinal ward," she says, walking across the stage with a halting step. It's the first - and for many the only - outward sign of the ordeal Shepherd has endured. "I had been active and in control, I wanted to be an Olympian and a sports physiologist. I had to completely rethink my life."

She had a long time to reflect, flat on her back with sandbags propping up her head, oscillating between a positive attitude and the encompassing loneliness of a ward where soft sobs punctuated the long, sad nights. "I was a prisoner there," she remembers. When she got out, things still looked bleak. "I'd lost half my body function; it simply didn't work any more. I was in a full-body cast, in a wheelchair. There were times I felt it might have been better if I hadn't survived ... I thought I had rather a lot to be depressed about."

Kleenex come out of pockets, the audience starts to sniffle. The speaker knows it's time to change gear. After the litany of horrors, she moves on to the story of her resurrection.

"Every part of my life was affected. I knew I had to do something to replace all the things I had lost. I was sitting at home with my mother and a plane flew over ... and I knew I had to fly. Right then, I had a dream."

Nevermind that paraplegics, partial or otherwise, don't usually fly. Shepherd earned her restricted pilot's licence and kept on studying and flying. She then got an unrestricted licence, her instrument rating, twin-engine rating, commercial pilot's licence and eventually became an instructor. She learned to do aerobatics, then to fly a seaplane. Along the way, she married Tim Blake, a fellow aerobatic pilot who now flies with Qantas and finished a university degree in human movement and a diploma in physical education.

Nevermind, either, that a doctor once told her she wouldn't be able to have a full sexual life and no-one knew if she would be able to have children. "When I told Tim he said there was only one way to find out."

She's reaching the finale now, taking her audience with her: "You have to have a goal. You need desire, dedication and determination. It's up to you to do the hard work. We all have the potential, we all need to learn to go further, higher than before. We have to do more than take on the hills ... we have to learn to love them. That's what makes a difference." She leaves them with the motto for life that she learned early in her flying lessons and adapted to her personal life - attitude plus power equals performance.

Outside the function room, she spends an hour talking to members of her audience, selling and signing copies of Never Tell Me Never, listening to other stories of sadness and triumph. One fan clutches seven books. "I saw her speak at one of our conferences in Bali," she says. "I bought the book and couldn't put it down. I told all my friends about Janine and they all wanted me to get them copies of the book."

Janine Shepherd, speaker and author, is an interesting phenomenon. She's remarkably down-home, slightly conspiratorial, definitely perky, able to seduce even the hardest hearts. In a real way, she affects the people she speaks to, or who read her book. Many of them write, confiding their own desperate tales, and she writes back some hundreds and hundreds of letters a year.

Sitting in an airport lounge, she drags one of these letters out of her handbag. It's from a young woman, aged about 18, who has read Never Tell Me Never and thinks it would make a great film. Although she is not an actress, she wants to play the lead.

"Wouldn't that be great?" says Shepherd, who would dearly love to help make this young dreamer's fantasy a reality. "I'm going to give this letter to David Elphick."

The filmmaker might have other views of casting for the lead in the film which he is developing from Shepherd's story. Elphick, whose latest film Black Rock, based on the murder of Newcastle schoolgirl Leigh Leigh opens on May 1, was fascinated by Shepherd's story and her development as an individual.

"While it's been extremely hard for her, she's probably a richer person now than if she hadn't had the accident and had won gold medals at three Olympics. She's maturing, she's opening up."

Shepherd had always told Palfreyman she hadn't planned a sequel to the first book. "But people come up to her all the time," says her publisher, "and ask her what happened next."

Never Tell Me Never ended with the birth of daughter Annabel, now six. Dare To Fly covers the next stage of Shepherd's life - joining Toastmasters, learning to speak in public, buying a plane, getting a computer, writing her first book, joining the public-speaking circuit, appearing on 60 Minutes, having her second child, Charlotte.

Then, she negotiated the rights for her first book outside Australia and New Zealand. Someone must have told her it couldn't be done, which was the beginning of her Japanese adventure. "Sales into Japan are extraordinarily difficult," says Palfreyman. "We've been trying to crack the market for years ... and Janine has managed to."

There is a certain quid pro quo in the relationship Shepherd has with her readers and audiences, Palfreyman notes. "Janine often makes the point that people inspire her as much as she inspires them. She understands the power of the individual is all well and good, but that things go much better if you let other people help you."

Back at home in Sydney with her husband just off a flight from London, daughter Charlotte scratchy for lack of sleep and Buddy the heeler flat out on the back veranda, Janine Shepherd is quietly reflecting on the odd turn her life took in that split second on a late Autumn afternoon in the Blue Mountains. She has had a long time to consider what happened to her and along the way she has discovered the serenity of faith. "I used to ask why, why, why me? But I didn't have any answers. I don't care about the why anymore. I know it's not about the meaning of life, but the meaning in life. It's about what you put into life, that's what matters.

"The greatest happiness is feeling that you can make a difference. [Being able to inspire people] is a great honour. I might have gone to the Olympic Games, won medals, but what I am doing now is much more important. To have people say to me 'You've changed my life' and know that I have made a difference to them is an enormous benefit to me. This whole thing is a huge personal development course."

Dare to Fly, by Janine Shepherd, published by Random House Australia next Friday, April 25; rrp $29.95.

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Dare to Fly Alfred Holland, Newcastle Herald, 07 Feb 1998

Dare to Fly By Janine Shepherd
Random House, $29.95 Reviewed by Alfred Holland

THAT life is unfair is the experience of many: the vast quantity of undeserved and innocent suffering has always found men and women searching for answers. Even Job, the classical sufferer, received a blunt and not very reasoned response from his maker. But it is how people cope with their sufferings, innocent or otherwise, that makes the difference between buoyant new life or embittered corrosive non-living in the slow lane.

In 1986, Janine Shepherd was doing a cycling training run from Sydney to the Blue Mountains in preparation for the 1988 Winter Olympics. She was struck from behind by a utility truck and suffered a broken neck, back broken in four places, broken arm and collarbone, five broken ribs, broken bones in feet, head and internal injuries, severe blood loss and much more. There followed months of painful rehabilitation and the determination to rebuild a new life. She recounted all this in her best-selling book, Never tell me Never.

She has written a sequel that describes an almost miraculous new lifestyle: how she learned to fly (acrobatically) and is now an instructor, learned to type, has written two books (no ghosting), appeared on 60 Minutes, given birth to two children, and is a member of the international speaking circuit bringing motivational messages to small community groups as well as corporations.

It is a story of great disciplined courage and determination which will, by osmosis, encourage many. It is simply written, easy to read with no pretension to high literary skill. It is an ordinary account of an extraordinary woman recalling the happenings of her everyday post-accident life.

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Never ? Never ! Rachel Browne, Sun Herald, 03 May 1998

Athlete Janine Shepherd's story has inspired many, not least - as Rachel Browne discovers - Claudia Karvan, who relives Shepherd's victory over death.

It took only a split second to change Janine Shepherd's life violently and irrevocably. On a crisp Autumn afternoon a utility truck knocked the cross-country skiing champion and Winter Olympic hopeful off her bicycle close to the end of a training run in the Blue Mountains.

Her wounds included a broken neck, back (in four places), five ribs, right arm and collarbone, a shattered right foot, massive internal bleeding and severe head injuries. The right side of her body was torn open from her ankle to her torso and filled with road gravel. She lost five litres of blood, her blood pressure was 40 over nothing, and doctors did not believe she would make it through the night.

But since that terrible afternoon 12 years ago, Shepherd's achievements have outstripped her injuries. Told she was unlikely to regain the use of her legs, have a full sexual life or bear children, Shepherd not only walked, she flew, after gaining her pilot's licence, married fellow pilot Tim Blake, and is mother to three children, Annabel, 7; Charlotte, 5, and Angus, eight months.

The 36-year-old also turned her trauma and remarkable recovery into a one-woman industry. There are two best-selling books (Never Tell Me Never and Dare To Fly), the motivational talks for which she commands about $4,000 each, and now the film based on Never Tell Me Never starring Claudia Karvan in the title role.

Meeting Shepherd at her rambling home at Avalon in Sydney's northern beaches, it's almost impossible to believe she was ever on death's door. Bright-eyed and bubbly with offers of tea and hot cross buns, she's one of those people you warm to instantly.

The only outward sign of her injuries is her slight shuffle and the cushion she reaches for to ease the pressure on a large ulcer on her thigh. "I get ulcers all the time," she says, sitting in her fresh flower-filled sunroom, "because I have no feeling in my legs."

When Karvan bounds through the door, the pair hug like long lost sisters. They giggle and chatter as Karvan helps herself to a cup of tea and hungrily eyes the hot cross buns: "Mmm. I'm starving. Can we have some of those later?"

Not only did Shepherd find the perfect actress to play her on screen, she also made a new best friend and de facto aunty to her children, on whom Karvan clearly dotes.

karvan_portrait_1_200.jpg Although Karvan is 11 years younger than Shepherd and about 10cm taller, there are physical similarities - both are attractive, slim, green-eyed brunettes with clear skin and wide smiles - and they finish each other's sentences the way close friends do.

It's not surprising to learn they connected immediately at their first meeting after Shepherd fought for Karvan to have the role and, again not surprisingly, won.

Actress Claudia Karvan

"People had different opinions about the casting," recalls Shepherd, whose official title on the production notes is script consultant although it's obvious her input was much greater. "I was a little bit annoyed about that because if anyone knows what I'm like and what my friends and family are like it's me.

"When Claudia turned up to the screen test she was in an old T-shirt and her hair was bunched up, really messy. But she looked just like I would have looked."

Karvan shoots a look of mock hurt: "Are you saying I looked awful?" she asks before they both fall apart giggling.

"Yeah right !" Shepherd snorts. "But after I saw Claudia, there was no one else."

So keen was Shepherd to find out whether the producers, Golden Square Pictures, and network executives from Channel 10 had agreed on Karvan, she rang the production office straight after the birth of her son in August.

"I was so desperate ! I was harassing the production people, 'Have they made a decision yet?' They said, 'Where are you?'. 'I'm in hospital'. 'Have you had the baby, yet?'. And I'm saying, 'Yes, I had him an hour ago but have you made a decision?'. When they finally told me Claudia had the role I was so happy."

Karvan arrived at Shepherd's house days later with a big bunch of flowers and several hour's worth of questions. The pair sat on the grapevine-covered veranda eating quiche and talking into the evening.

"We had a lot to talk about," Karvan says of the first meeting.

Shepherd: "Then we moved to the study." Karvan: "To go through the secret women's business."

Shepherd. "Yes, we sat in there with the script and picked everything apart !"

Karvan: "We went through every scene and I'm like, 'What really happened there Janine? I wonder if we can change it'."

Shepherd: "It was so funny. I had missed not having a woman on the production team and as soon as Claudia was on board I felt I had someone I could talk to about personal things."

Perhaps it was a stroke of luck, good casting or testament to Karvan's considerable acting skills but Shepherd's first instincts proved correct.

Shepherd's friends had shivers up their spines watching Karvan learn to ski wearing Shepherd's old snow gear, so uncanny were the similarities. And when she invited them to watch a screening of Never Tell Me Never, "they told me it was like watching me play me".

"Claudia would sometimes ring me and say, 'I had this scene today and they wanted to do it like this but I knew that this is the way you would have done it so we did it this way'," Shepherd continues. "And I would think, thank goodness, because her instincts were generally spot on. She really made the effort to get into my head which was so important."

While Karvan could connect with her subject on an emotional level, she says she reached a stumbling block on the physical side. Shepherd, was, after all, an elite athlete who represented NSW in netball and softball and was a NSW triathlon champion before turning to cross-country skiing. Her nickname was Janine the Machine.

Exercise for Karvan is the more serene pursuit of yoga. She had all of three days to master skiing as well as learn how to do aerobics and ride a racing bike.

"One of my friends who was teaching Claudia how to ski rang me and said, 'She was amazing ! She just picked it up straight away. She reminds me so much of you'," Shepherd remembers, laughing. "I said, 'What do you mean?' And he said, 'She's so bloody stubborn and determined'."

Karvan adds, "I had tears in my eyes, going, 'I hate Janine ! I hate skiing !'. I was hyperventilating. Then suddenly, after about two days, it clicked and I loved it."

Shepherd picks up the story: "She was amazing. She had never ridden a racing cycle before either and they are really difficult because they have really thin tyres."

Karvan rolls her eyes, "Yeah, like spaghetti. It was like learning to drive in a grand prix racing car."

Shepherd: "She hated aerobics but had to learn aerobics."

Karvan groans: "Despised aerobics !"

Shepherd smiles: "She had to run, she hates running. But she's so believeable. She's a natural athlete. She picked up all these sports within a day. If she had wanted to be a cross-country skiing champion she could have been !

Karvan cringes: "Yeah, yeah. That's right Janine. Not ! I don't have the same amount of tenacity I don't think."

Despite all the bumps and bruises endured during the shoot at Perisher Valley, Gilgandra in western NSW, Bowral in the Southern Highlands and Sydney, Never Tell Me Never was an inspiring experience for Karvan.

"I'm used to working on fiction, basically," Karvan says, thoughtfully. "But because this is a factual story it made me feel as if I had a purpose. Instead of just making a piece of entertainment, I was doing justice to a really magnificent story."

Now it's Shepherd's turn to cringe. Despite her extraordinary spirit and strength, she appears genuinely baffled as to why her achievements have attracted so much attention.

"People go on about it being a remarkable story but there are lots of similar stories, there are lots of people going through similar challenges," she reasons. "We all have difficult times and challenges in our lives. I feel honoured that it happens to be my story but there are lots of stories like mine which give people hope."

Karvan, too, has overcome her fair share of obstacles. A former child star in films such as Molly and High Tide, she developed into an arthouse darling with credits such as Exile, Lust And Revenge and Broken Highway to her name. She swam in the mainstream with Heartbreak Kid, then spent two years in the acting wilderness before Dating The Enemy in 1995.

Today she is one of Australia's most in-demand actresses, having spent the past year working on consecutive projects: the Channel 9 miniseries, The Violent Earth; the feature film, Paperback Hero, opposite Hugh Jackman; and she has just commenced work on a new film, Passion, with Richard Roxburgh and Barbara Hershey.

Despite Karvan's career struggles, it was the prospect of Shepherd losing her sexuality that affected her the most deeply.

"Janine had to come to terms with losing everything that defined her as a woman and that really broke my heart, that really made me cry," Karvan says.

"She was told she wouldn't be able to have children and she was fearful of love. The prospect of denying yourself love indefinitely, I found incredibly challenging."

For director David Elfick, who managed to convince Shepherd to let him make the film after she had turned down several other filmmakers, Never Tell Me Never is on a par with other despair-to-repair films such as Shine, My Left Foot and Chariots Of Fire.

As he writes in his director's notes, these uplifting tales are "thematically bigger than their actual subject matter".

Elfick chose to shoot Shepherd's recovery scenes at Prince Henry Hospital where she herself spent six months wondering whether she would ever walk again, let alone ski.

Working with quadriplegic and paraplegic people at the hospital's spinal injury ward had a powerful resonance to the cast and crew.

"It made us realise," Elfick recalls, "That this could have happened to any of us."

Never Tell Me Never airs on Channel 10 on Sunday, May 10 at 8.30pm.

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A New Way to Win Ali Gripper, Sydney Morning Herald, 04 May 1998

Tragedy shattered Janine Shepherd's dream of winning Olympic gold. But she is reaping greater rewards through her courageous efforts to rebuild her life, writes Ali Gripper.

ON a steep hill in the Blue Mountains: that's where Janine Shepherd's life took a big swerve, and never resumed the same course again. She was 24, an ace cross-country skier with Olympic dreams, pedalling furiously uphill on her racing bike when a truck knocked her down and just about killed her.

She never hesitates to tell people about this dramatic turning point, and how she overcame her horrific injuries and learnt to become a flying instructor. Her autobiography, Never Tell Me Never, published in 1984, was a classic in the survivor genre and became a bestseller. The telemovie inspired by it, starring Claudia Karvan tells of her journey to hell and back. The fact that Janine Shepherd is around to tell us about her darkest moments is just the start of her extraordinary story.

Anyone watching the ambulance arrive that day in the mountains, seeing her placed on the spinal board, would have thought she was a goner. She was thrashing about on the side of the road in pain and frothing at the mouth. Gashes down her torso and thighs had filled with road gravel and were bleeding profusely. Her forehead skin was pushed back, exposing the skull. Her eyes were rolling back inside her head. As she struggled through the first six months in the spinal unit of Prince Henry Hospital, the pain that her dreams of skiing were over was just as immense as the pain that gripped her battered body.

"Waking up in a spinal ward is every athlete's worst nightmare," Shepherd says. "Up until then, running was my coping mechanism. If I couldn't put on my shoes and head out the door, how was I going to get by?"

She had great trouble facing the fact that her injuries were permanent. Even when she did walk, it would be slowly, with a significant limp. She would never be able to run, and her back was held together by a rib taken from her left side.

"Then you think: what will I do with my life? How will I cope?" she says. "But you can and you do. And you learn that giving to others is a much more fulfilling life than Olympic medals."

Shepherd's voice is exceptionally clear and strong. She's pretty and impish, and it is impossible not to like her. Her pace is incredible: on, on, on, down the corridor of her rambling Avalon home with her seven-year-old daughter, Annabel, just as she is always moving on in her life - to the next project, the next book, the next motivational speech, perhaps interstate again.

She collaborated closely on the script of the film Never Tell Me Never with the producer, David Elfick, and has become close friends with the screenwriter, John Cundill, and actor Karvan during its creation.

"The chance to have your main character alive and on set or at the end of a telephone was an irresistible resource," she says. "They'd ring up constantly, saying, 'Janine, we're up to the hospital scene, what would you have said at this point? Or what would you have said here?' "

SHE found the eight-week shoot slightly unnerving - Karvan wore her clothes, and personal possessions such as her skis and trophies were borrowed for the set. "It was a bit weird - it was like handing my life over to them," she says.

"Claudia was almost uncanny in her similarity to me - her colouring, her body definition, her mannerisms. When I saw the rushes I felt like I was watching myself."

For Karvan, too, there were some spooky moments, one of which was spending a night in a spinal ward to try to understand Shepherd's blackest moments. "The lack of privacy, the pain of it, the despair of others around me ... I had to go outside to recover. I couldn't last a whole night," she said. "It seems incredible to me that she spent six months like that. I just hope my performance does her justice."

The thing about Shepherd is that she radiates hope and determination, and she applies her never-say-die attitude not only to her own life, but to sharing it with others. "I'd never want my old life back again. I know that sounds like a big statement, but to be able to give what I can now to others is the most fulfilling thing.

"The Olympics are shortlived. Now I have the ability to give in a much greater way, to touch people, and that is far, far more rewarding," she says.

As well as being in great demand as a motivational speaker, she receives hundreds of letters every week; 20-page letters from paraplegics touched by her story, primary school students, people asking advice on writing a book, or learning how to fly.

"I can help people on a great scale because of my speaking ... there is a great amount of hope in knowing what I have survived ... but we can all do it in our own way, to give hope to others around us," she says.

There she goes again, winning you over. Never Tell Me Never is written with great reserves of feeling. Yet it's not only a page-turner, you keep wanting to flip over to the cover to look at her face as you read her story.

The disappointment of missing out on the Olympics took a long time to fade. "For an athlete there can be no greater loss than what I have been through. Learning to live with it, and make the most of it, has been the greatest challenge of my life," she wrote.

And there is some disappointment that it should have been made into a feature film but was not. "It was written for the big screen," said Janine. "It's very high production and I really wanted people to be able to watch it in a darkened room with no ads.

"But the funding came quickly and I don't think David [Elfick] wanted it to be like Shine where it takes 10 years to come out.

"But then I realised, the people who will get the most out of it are the ones who can't get to the theatre."

As she watches her third child, eight-month-old Angus, learn to crawl, she knows exactly how he feels. He'll fall many times in the learning process, but he'll always get up and try again. Like her, he doesn't know the meaning of giving up.

Never Tell Me Never, Sunday, 8.30pm on Ten

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Janine to Get a Jet Ride of a Lifetime
Malcolm Brown, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 Oct 1998

shepherd_aircraft_5_200.jpg Janine Shepherd, 26, whose life hung by a thread two years ago when she was run over by a utility, will soon achieve the dream of a lifetime - a ride in an RAAF F/A-18 jet fighter.

Miss Shepherd was Australia's top cross-country skier and was training for the Winter Olympics before the accident broke her neck and back in seven places. She now has a slight limp and can walk only short distances.

At the Bicentennial Air Show at Richmond yesterday, the Minister for Defence Support, Mrs Ros Kelly, wished her the best of luck for her fighter ride.

Miss Shepherd was in buoyant spirits as she inspected one of the F/A-18s on display.

She said that after the accident she spent four months at Prince Henry Hospital and was not expected to live.

"When I got out of hospital I could not walk unless I was helped by two people.

"So I decided to take up flying. I thought, seeing I could not walk I might as well fly."

Her determination gained her a private pilot's licence, then a commercial licence. She is now a qualified flying instructor, flying four-seater aircraft from Bankstown two or three days a week - spending the rest in rehabilitation for her injuries.

"About a year ago, I got the dream of flying an F/A-18. I wrote to the group captain at Williamtown who wrote back saying they could not put me up in one but invited me to come and fly a simulator."

After spending two days at Williamtown she asked the Ministry for Defence if she could fly in an F/A-18 fighter.

"I received my reply last week from Mrs Kelly who said she was impressed by my spirit and motivation and if it was all right on medical grounds she would be most pleased to grant me a ride.

"I was so determined I said I was willing to sign the indemnity.

"Life is full of risks and what I have learnt is to live each day as if it was the last."

Flight Lieutenant Rick Hughes, pilot of an F/A-18 who met Miss Shepherd at Williamtown and gave her a tour of the base, said he admired her pluck.

He said: "It would be a pretty harassing experience to go up in one, particularly for a person who has not had any experience of jets."

* The number of visitors to the Bicentennial Air Show has already easily surpassed forecasts, even before the public days today and tomorrow.

About 53,000 trade visitors have already visited the show and organisers are ready for huge crowds this weekend.

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Pain barrier no obstacle to sporting desire
Newcastle Herald, 29 Aug 2000

FOURTEEN years ago Janine Shepherd was hit by a truck while riding her bike in the Blue Mountains. Yesterday she walked in the Olympic Torch relay at The Entrance in what she hopes is a precursor to her own Paralympic ambitions as an equestrian. After a year of painful recovery, Ms Shepherd, the author of best-selling book Never Tell Me Never which recounts her horrific experience and is now a movie starring Claudia Karvan, was able to walk again.

Now a partial paraplegic, she has no feeling below her waist and her legs are thin and wasted.

She secures her feet into the stirrups of her saddle with elastic bands when riding her horse, Sharni.

She competes in the open section in Riding for the Disabled dressage competitions and regains a sense of freedom when on her horse.

'I love it. I just started learning how to jump,' she said yesterday.

Aiming to compete in the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, Ms Shepherd refuses to allow chronic back pain stop her from realising her dream.

Her aches and pains are a legacy of an event she cannot remember. Suffering from post-traumatic amnesia, all Ms Shepherd remembers after the accident is waking up in hospital about a month later.

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from the now seemingly abandoned? Janine Shepherd Website

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Sydney Aerobatic School


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