Northern Rivers veterans gearing up for Invictus games
IT'S been months of intense physical training but Northern Rivers veterans Jamie Tanner and Luke Clibborn are gearing up to head overseas to represent Australia in the third annual Invictus Games next month.
The pair will be competing against almost 500 international athletes across a range of sporting events including athletics, archery, indoor rowing, powerlifting, road cycling, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.
Set up by Prince Harry in 2014 for wounded and ill returned defence personnel, the games aim to use sport to inspire recovery, support and rehabilitation and promote a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women.
For Ballina's Jamie Tanner, physical exercise and sport played an instrumental part in his recovery after spending 11 years serving in the army, including tours of East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The biggest hurdle that I faced was the fact that I joined the army at such a young age," he said.
"Coming out of the army and having to find a way in the civilian world was really tough."
Mr Tanner said sport and exercise were probably the biggest factors that helped him adjust and manage post-defence injuries like PTSD.
"Getting back into sport has given me the opportunity to get around a team environment again," he said.
"Especially with the adaptive sports program, being involved with other people that are like minded and going through the same challenges, both physically and mentally."
For Lismore's Luke Clibborn, sport and exercise has played an equally monumental part in both his physical and psychological recovery following a near-fatal car crash returning to Albury's Latchford Army Barracks in Victoria, just 18-months into his defence career.
"When I got out of defence, I had no idea what I was doing, what was happening and I fell into a rather dark place," he said,
"Sport got me out with people, I had a goal that was exactly the same as them, so we'd talk about it, so from there sports just grown and grown and grown for me.
"Training with the other guys is insane. It was an opportunity to be military again, basically. Because we all had or were military… we all sort of had that instant bond that you get between army or any of the tri-services."
The 2016 Invictus Games will run from May 8 to 12 in Orlando, Florida with competitors from 13 counties.
The Australian team is made up of 40 competitors, including 20 current serving defence personnel and 20 returned service men and women.
Mr Tanner will compete in four swimming events, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and cycling, while Mr Clibborn competes in archery, cycling, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis.