Chang­ing lives

Benalla Ensign - - 2018 BENALLA FESTIVAL - By Si­mon Rup­pert

When Benalla Ru­ral City coun­cil­lor Scott Up­ston was of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to coach at the In­vic­tus Games in Syd­ney he knew he could not refuse.

A for­mer Aus­tralian Ser­vice­man and vet­eran of sev­eral in­ter­na­tional con­flicts, Cr Up­ston man­aged to find time to make the trip and help the Aussie team to 17 medals.

With a young fam­ily at home, a busi­ness to run and his com­mit­ments to coun­cil, Cr Up­ston found it dif­fi­cult to make time, but felt it was some­thing he had to do.

‘‘In the last year the or­gan­is­ers of the In­vic­tus Games asked for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est for coach­ing, I ap­plied and was for­tu­nate enough to be suc­cess­ful,’’ Cr Up­ston said.

‘‘I’ve been very for­tu­nate. I had 21 years as a sol­dier and I had a fan­tas­tic ca­reer and served my coun­try over­seas on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, and I’ve come back and con­tin­ued to thrive.

‘‘Some guys and girls are less for­tu­nate than me through ei­ther PTSD, phys­i­cal in­jury or they just haven’t coped with the tran­si­tion to civil­ian life.

‘‘So if I can in­ject my­self back in there and help one per­son go out and feel bet­ter about them­selves, or feel bet­ter about their ca­pac­ity to go and get a job or do any­thing in their nor­mal day-to-day rou­tine I think that’s im­por­tant.’’

Cr Up­ston had ini­tially ap­plied to coach the weight-lift­ing team and thought he had missed out be­fore re­ceiv­ing a call from In­vic­tus of­fer­ing him the op­por­tu­nity to coach the in­door-row­ing team.

‘‘I had a friend on the se­lec­tion panel who rec­om­mended me, so I had the op­por­tu­nity to take over the in­door row­ing pro­gram,’’ he said.

‘‘The guys and girls worked hard and we were for­tu­nate enough that they re­ceived eight gold medals, six sil­ver medals and three bronze. So it was an over­all medal tally of 17.

‘‘The clos­est to us were the Yanks on 14 fol­lowed by the Poms on 13, so it was a great achieve­ment by the guys and girls.’’

The value of the In­vic­tus Games to its com­peti­tors was im­mea­sur­able and Cr Up­ston said there were a num­ber of com­peti­tors whose lives had changed for the bet­ter as a re­sult.

‘‘I met a man in Jan­uary, he’d lost his soul, he’d lost his self­es­teem, and his self-worth,’’ Cr Up­ston said.

‘‘I saw him com­pete at the In­vic­tus Games, he didn’t medal, but he now car­ries him­self with a bit of pride, with a bit of dig­nity, he’s got his self-worth back, and to see that tran­si­tion was just amaz­ing.

‘‘So he’ll go out and roll back into the com­mu­nity now, his med­i­ca­tion has de­creased, and there’s a whole heap of good stuff around that which you just can’t put a mone­tary value on.’’

It’s no se­cret that the face of In­vic­tus is His Royal High­ness, the Duke of Sus­sex who at­tended the games with his ever-pop­u­lar wife Meghan.

Cr Up­ston did not get the op­por- tu­nity to meet Harry, but said his in­volve­ment in the games was fan­tas­tic.

‘‘My in­door-row­ing cap­tain was the one who pre­sented Harry with the budgie smug­glers and he said he was just a fan­tas­tic per­son,’’ Cr Up­ston said.

‘‘He’s just a de­cent hu­man be­ing, he’s down to earth, he had a laugh and he was very hum­ble.

‘‘I was at the open­ing cer­e­mony and I sat there and I lis­tened to him speak — and he gets it. He was ar­tic­u­late, he was pas­sion­ate and he be­lieves in the games.

‘‘And hav­ing been a vet­eran him­self, and hav­ing seen what goes on in op­er­a­tions in Afghanistan or any of those areas where our guys and girls serve, he gets it first-hand. He is an ab­so­lute cracker that young man.’’

Proud: The Aussie In­vic­tus Games team, which in­cluded Benalla Ru­ral City coun­cil­lor and in­door row­ing coach Scott Up­ston.

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