In­spir­ing sto­ries shared

Benalla Ensign - - Front Page - Si­mon Rup­pert

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.

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