Inspiring stories shared
Not since the 1850s has regional Victoria seen as much gold as was on display at Benalla’s Primal Health club recently.
With three elite athletes in town there were enough medals around to make even the most skillful gold-rush prospector green with envy.
Benalla Rural City Councillor and Primal owner Scott Upston arranged what can only be described as an inspirational ‘‘fireside chat’’ with superstar Paralympians Cody Meakin AOM and Cam Carr OAM as well as local X-games gold medallist Robbie Adleberg.
Wepublished an article on Robbie’s involvement last week. This week we focus on the amazing journey of the two Paralympians.
Neither Cody or Cam had grown up dreaming of being an elite Paralympian.
It would be fair to say that for most able-bodied people, competing in the Paralympics is something that would never be considered.
However, due to a combination of bad luck and bad choices both would find themselves confined to a wheelchair at a young age.
‘‘I was raised in Darwin, I’m 28 now. I guess I had a pretty average upbringing,’’ Cody said.
‘‘I played a lot of sport, I always enjoyed rugby and AFL. But I was a bit of a bad kid, so I was sent to boarding school in Year 7.
‘‘I made a lot of good friends there, but I also made a lot of bad friends. I got to about 15 and we’d drink every weekend and party a lot.
‘‘I got into a bit of trouble and that just kept escalating. Eventually I got sent back home.
‘‘So I was on my way to Darwin when I was 18 and I ended up going to a pub in the Northern Territory. I got into a fight and got kicked out.
‘‘I ended up finding a bloke whose place I was going to be staying at, we walked down the street and found a house party.
‘‘We left there at about 3 am and I jumped into the back of the ute of a guy I’d never met before.
‘‘He tried to drift around a corner, lost control, and the result of that is that I broke my neck.’’
Cody was in a bad way and was airlifted to Adelaide via Alice Springs where he would spend three weeks in an induced coma.
‘‘I woke up and I’d lost about 25 kilos, I couldn’t move anything and my hair had turned brown, it had been blond,’’ Cody said.
‘‘I was only 18, so I thought I’d be in hospital for a day then be let out, but that wasn’t the case.’’
Cody had always been physically fit and said that even when he was ‘‘running amok’’ he would train as often as he could.
‘‘So that was one thing that I knew how to do and one thing I could still do after my accident,’’ he said.
‘‘So when I got to rehab I just trained.
‘‘I knew if I trained and trained I could improve my quality could.’’
That hard work and dedication did not go unnoticed and one day at the gym Cody met Cam Meakin who talked him into giving wheelchair rugby a try.
Cody fell in love with the sport and found the friendship and camaraderie much more fulfilling than previous friendships he had prior to his injury, which he said often led him down a bad path.
Being a natural athlete it wasn’t long before Cody was picked for Queensland, and subsequently the Australian Wheelchair Rugby Team.
After a journey with more highs and lows than most people experience in a lifetime Cody would play in the of life as best I Australian team that took out Gold at the 2012 London Paralympics.
That team was captained by close friend Cam Carr who also shared his story.
Cam wasn’t quite the tearaway Cody was.
The son of a Queensland State of Origin star Cam grew up playing rugby league at a high level, eventually being signed up by the Sydney Roosters.
Sports media back then was calling Cam ‘the next big thing’. He had the pedigree, the skills and the drive to make it at the highest level of the sport.
One bad decision saw that entire future disappear in a split second.
‘‘I went to a 21st birthday party. Afterwards I jumped into a car with a mate who was going home. It was only a five minute drive, but we got about 100 metres from our destination and he fell asleep and rolled the car,’’ Cam said.
‘‘I ended up having six months in hospital recovering and thinking about what had happened.
‘‘I wasn’t a great patient. When I went home I just couldn’t accept being in care.
‘‘I look at someone like Cody who was able to move on with his life pretty quickly, but I was different.
‘‘I took a long time. After an accident like mine you’re afforded a lot of time to sit and think, and for me what I wanted to do was to play professional rugby league, I’d never considered anything else.
‘‘So it took me a good five years to work out that I needed to move on with my life.
‘‘And going to the gym, and sport is something that helped me get up in the morning and keep going.
‘‘It makes you feel part of the community, and for me finding wheelchair rugby got me out of a rut.
‘‘Now, three games, and 12 gold medals later, I feel I can move onto the next stage of my life.
‘‘I’m married and have three young kids, so I’ve moved away from sport. I retired last year and I’m trying to finish a double degree at uni.’’
Despite somewhat different journeys Cody and Cam ended up in the same place and were able to overcome adversity the likes of which most of us will never experience.
Cr Upston said he was delighted with how the day went and he was thankful to all three athletes for taking the time to share their stories.
‘‘It was an opportunity to highlight how important sport is and what it can deliver if you use it as your vessel to achieve goals,’’ Cr Upston said.
‘‘I was fortunate enough that my mates from Brisbane, who I trained previously, were willing to give up their time to come down and share their stories.
‘‘And I thought it was an opportunity for the Benalla community to speak to some guys who play sport at an elite level, which is something they might not normally have exposure to.’’
Kicker: X-Games Gold Medallist, Benalla's Robbie Adleberg, Paralympic Gold Medallist Cam Carr, Benalla Councillor Scott Upston, and Paralympic gold Medallist Cody Meakin.