Love triumphs over adversity
A FORMER Mullumbimby Navy marine technician wore his heart on his sleeve when he followed a gold medal swim with a marriage proposal at the Invictus Games on Thursday.
In a highly strategic operation planned months in advance, athlete Dean Knobel, 35, enlisted the assistance of former Olympian and Invictus Games Sydney Ambassador Ian Thorpe to help wrangle his girlfriend Rachael Wilson permission to be on the stage as his team received their medals.
Mr Knobel was part of the squad who won gold in the Mixed 4x50m Freestyle Relay with a time of 1:50.26.
But he said proposing to his girlfriend much much more nerve-wracking.
"I had to get permission from the Invictus committee, I've been planning it for months," he said.
"Because Ian Thorpe has so much pull, he was able to get Rachael down on the pretext of having her photo taken."
However, his soon-to-be bride realised something was up when Mr Knobel fell to one knee.
"My voice broke I was shaking so much," he said.
"And she said 'yes'."
The stadium erupted with applause as the couple embraced and his relay team-mates cheered and whistled.
"I had the ring in a big box in my pocket, it was one of only two diamond rings for sale in Casino when my grandfather came back from World War Two after he was a POW for three years," he said.
"He proposed to my grandmother with it, then it came down to my mum and she loaned it to me to propose to Rachael."
Currently lives on the Gold Coast, Mr Knobel was medically discharged from the Navy in 2013 after suffering a spinal injury from a heavy lifting accident which crushed his left hand and he also lives with an adjustment disorder.
"Rachael is a very special woman, we clicked straight away," he said.
"She is so understanding of how difficult life can be living with injury and depression, to find someone I could fall in love with who fell in love with me, I'm so lucky."
Mr Knobel said while they have not confirmed a wedding date, they could tie the knot The Hague, Netherlands during the 2020 Invictus Games.