If she had not become addicted to cigarettes, Kirsty Ah Mat believes she could have followed in her father’s footsteps and represented Australia at the Olympic Games. Her father, Michael Ah Matt, was the first Indigenous basketball player to play with the Boomers, representing the nation at the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico Olympic Games. A single mother of two children, Kirsty, 41 of Craigmore and a Torres Strait Islander/Ngalakan woman said if she could have her time again, she would never have started smoking. “I started smoking when I was 13 years of age. I don’t know why I did it because I was well and truly into basketball,” she said. “Who knows, if I didn’t pick up that cigarette, then just maybe I could have been as good of a player as my father, but I will never know. “At the time I didn’t think smoking affected my fitness, but I suppose I didn’t know any different because I didn’t know what it was like to play without cigarettes.” Kirsty soon developed asthma and severe hayfever. It has been more than two years since Kirsty stopped smoking. She says the reason she decided to quit was because of her children and not wanting to be just another statistic. “My dad passed away when he was 40 and I didn’t want to be another statistic. So I stopped 6 months before my 40th birthday,” Kirsty said. “I didn’t want my kids to be without a mum. “My son would also get in my ear and say – mum why smoke, it’s not good for you, just don’t buy them.” To keep her motivated, Kirsty said she would use the money she saved to reward herself. “Each week I would allow myself $20 and each fortnight I would go and get a massage, pedicure or save for a holiday,” she said.
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