What the Invictus Games mean for the people who compete in them

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What are the Invictus Games?
It was a dizzyingly quick turnaround for Corporal Sonya Newman who just months after having her leg amputated above the knee dived headfirst into the 2017 Invictus Games. The ABC is the official host broadcaster of this year’s games. Photo:
Corporal Newman competed in last year’s Invictus Games and has a tattoo to show for it. But what are they? “Some days it got harder to get out of bed,” she said.Having been helped along the way by fellow athletes, she is keen to offer the same mentorship for new competitors at this year’s event. “If I can help anybody on that journey, then that makes me really happy,” she said.The Invictus Games will be held in Sydney from October 20-27. Darwin’s Thomas Foster, who will represent Australia in swimming, agreed the opportunity to try out for the games had helped him out of a rough patch.The combat engineer suffers chronic pain and severely limited mobility in his foot after falling into a rabbit hole in 2015.”It seemed to me that life got shut down a little bit and I became a bit secluded, because I wasn’t able to do things that I’d usually do through work and with the boys out there,” he said.Mr Foster has a background in swimming.Commonwealth Games medallist and two-time Olympian Sally Hunter is his sister, and after setting the sport aside due to work commitments, he hoped the upcoming games would offer him a global stage of his own.”It basically made me get back out there; got me doing things again, so it really helped my outlook on how things seemed,” he said.Corporal Newman said despite taking a gung-ho attitude to the 2017 games, nerves eventually took hold as she struggled to negotiate a steep learning curve. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
“I just came to the realisation that some things were actually challenging for me. Photo:
Corporal Newman spends most mornings swimming laps in the pool at the Darwin Army barracks. The 11 sports are adaptive, meaning they have been modified to suit the abilities of competitors, who nominate to represent their nations in anything from swimming to seated volleyball.For Corporal Newman, it means months of hard training amid an already busy schedule lay ahead.”I think you never really know if you’re ready,” she said.Games give back to athletesDuring try-outs, competitors are assessed on the motivation and fitness they bring to teams — but organisers are also wary of giving back.”They have to look at who’s going to get the most out of being a competitor, and who it’s going to help through a difficult stage in their life,” Corporal Newman said. Invictus Games: Everything you need to know More than 500 athletes from around the globe will descend on Sydney for the 2018 Invictus Games. “My boss at the time just gave me some paperwork and said, ‘I think this will be helpful for you’,” Corporal Newman said, who led Darwin’s Anzac Day march this year.The servicewoman of nearly two decades had been adjusting to surgical complications that cost her a leg and kept her in hospital for three of the first four years of her daughter’s life.”I think I needed something that would give me that extra little bit of push,” she said. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
“To refocus myself onto something that was more positive was definitely helpful for me in that period time.”The Top End local tried out for the international sporting event, trained hard, and collected three silver medals and a gold for her performance in the swimming pool.She has been named as one of the squad of athletes that will represent Australia at this year’s games.Created by Prince Harry for wounded, injured and ill military personnel, this year’s Invictus Games will attract more than 500 competitors from 18 nations to Sydney’s Olympic Park in October.
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(ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson) ABC Radio Darwin

By Jesse Thompson


June 16, 2018 07:00:01

Corporal Sonya Newman has been selected to represent Australia in the 2018 Invictus Games.
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Australia’s Ukrainian couple coaching paralympic champions

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(ABC Canberra: Hannah Walmsley) ABC Radio Canberra

By Hannah Walmsley


June 16, 2018 07:30:01

Yuriy Vdovychenko and Iryna Dvoskina are leading Australia’s brightest young para athletes.
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“The major challenge is to have my athletes maintain their health and their disability,” he said.”We’re always working to adjust the training to work with their individual biomechanics and balance in the pool.”‘Everyone has a story’Across campus at the AIS indoor track, para athletics coach Iryna Dvoskina (and Vdovychenko’s wife) works with an impressive stable of sprinters.Since her appointment at the Australian Institute of Sport in 2003, Dvoskina has coached athletes to medals at every Olympic Games.”In Athens my athletes won nine medals and then 12 in Beijing,” she said.”People started thinking after that that maybe I’m doing something right.”Dvoskina said it was her job to help athletes get the most out of themselves.”Every one of our athletes has a story,” she said. (ABC Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)
And while the athletes are driven to better their best and win medals at major championships, their coaches are looking at the big picture.”I love my athletes but I’m tough,” Dvoskina said.”I have to be otherwise I am being soft and not preparing them for life.”I am not just coaching my athletes, I am preparing them for life and life is not a holiday, life is tough.” Photo:
Swimmer Ahmed Kelly relocated from Melbourne to Canberra to train with Yuriy Vdovychenko. Photo:
Yuriy Vdovychenko is the Swimming Australia National Training Centre coach working with Australia’s para-swim team. (ABC Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)
Formerly a swimmer with the Soviet Union national team, Vdovychenko said his reward as a coach was to watch his athletes develop and win medals. Photo:
Iryna Dvoskina works with young athlete James Gurner at the AIS indoor athletics track. (ABC Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)
Aungles was born with a malformed right leg and had his lower left leg amputated at the age of one.The Rio paralympian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist has been training under Vdovychenko since 2013.”Yuriy changed everything. (ABC Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)

Paralympic and Commonwealth gold medallist Tim Disken made a remarkable return to competition. Photo:
Iryna Dvoskina is known for her commitment to her athletes and for expecting absolute dedication from them. When paralympic swimmer Jesse Aungles first met his new swim coach Yuriy Vdovychenko, he didn’t get the welcome he was expecting.”It was my first week at the AIS in Canberra and Yuriy took one look at me in the water and told me to get out,” Aungles said.”He said to me: ‘Jesse, you swim like an old lady, it’s fantastic, but we’ll make you an athlete’.”

Jesse Aungles trains alongside para-swim champions Tim Disken and Ahmed Kelly. (ABC Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)
Since then, the pair have worked tirelessly to develop world-class paralympic champions.”Now we have a lot of pathways for paralympians in Australia, but the problem is we don’t have the coaches,” Dvoskina said.”In Australia we just don’t have para coaches education, we have coach development but not fundamental education.”In the Ukraine it’s a four-year degree with anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and biomechanics.”Here it’s just bits and pieces, but it has to be recognised as a real job.”

Iryna Dvoskina has coached a long list of para-athletics champions including Vanessa Low and Scott Reardon. (ABC Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)
“When Scott [Reardon] came to me he couldn’t run, I had to move his legs with my hands to teach him how to run.”Look at him now.”Reardon lost his right leg in a horrific accident at the age of 12, when his shoelace was caught in a tractor on his family farm.The 28-year-old has since represented Australia at both paralympics and won gold in the Men’s T42 100 metres at IPC World Championships.Dvoskina and Vdovychenko only moved to Australia from the Ukraine in 2003, where Dvoskina was coach of the national athletics team. We’ve done a lot of visualisation, worked with biomechanics and physiology and we tried to look at swimming very holistically,” Aungles said.Under the direction of Vdovychenko, Aungles swims up to 50 kilometres each week alongside paralympian Ahmed Kelly and Commonwealth Games dual gold medallist Tim Disken. (ABC Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)
“Improving technique does get results and that’s exactly what Yuriy has done,” Disken said.”I’ve got hydrocephalus which means the excess cerebrospinal fluid doesn’t drain the normal way.”So I’ve got a shunt in my brain which basically drains that through a tubing system.”In 2017, just prior to a major international meet in Canada, Disken’s shunt failed.Aungles said his training partner was only a few hours away from “kicking the bucket”.”The tubing around my neck had disconnected and the excess fluid built up on the brain and essentially squashed it,” Disken said.Within eight hours of the first signs of a headache, Disken was in a comatose state and rushed to hospital for emergency brain surgery.”I was always determined to make it back for Commonwealth Games,” he said.Just six months later the 21-year-old won two gold medals on the Gold Coast.

Paramotor pilots brave the elements, gliding 1600km from Lake Eyre to Mt Kosciuszko

By Camron Slessor


June 16, 2018 07:51:45
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“It took us eight months to prepare, as we had to do everything in our power to minimise risks and potential dangers of wild weather — including the dusty thermals over the remote areas of South Australia and snow and icy blasts on the top of Mt Kosciuszko,” Mr Polidano said.”Starting our trip in Lake Eyre last month, we hit some challenges along the way, like unexpected strong winds and turbulence in the Flinders Ranges that forced us out of the sky.”To achieve the flight up to Mt Kosciuszko, we required a strategic take-off and several attempts due to the turbulence associated with the upper winds, which were exceeding 100 kilometres an hour. Imagine flying through the air, exposed to the harsh Australian elements for 1600 kilometres, from the country’s lowest point to its highest point.And you’re doing it with a two-stroke engine on your back.That is the feat achieved by one group of daredevil Australians, who have soared from Lake Eyre to the highest point of the snow-capped crest of Mt Kosciuszko.The paramotor pilots, aged between 23 and 62, are members of the Hang Gliding Federation of Australia (HGFA) and completed the Australian-first journey over a two-week period last fortnight.It was the longest paramotor climb in the country, with the group braving wild weather and thermal gusts and reaching speeds of up to 100 kilometres an hour.”No one has taken up the challenge to fly this type of aircraft from the lowest point to the highest,” pilot and instructor Andrew Polidano said.”I think we were all crazy enough to go along with the idea that we should do something that no one has ever done.”Each pilot used flying backpack motorised fan aircrafts, known as powered paragliders.The pilots were exposed to extreme elements of both the South Australian outback and Australia’s highest peak, spending a total of 18 hours in the air, equipped with the engine on their back, as well as a reserve parachute. We hope we have inspired other paramotor pilots to extend their horizons.”Already planning another high-speed challenge
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Mr Polidano was joined by fellow instructor Justin Shaw (of Bendigo) and pilots Peter Evans (of Canberra), Peter Forbes (of Bendigo), Brendan Tracey (of Whittlesea), Christopher Farney (of Kilmore) and driver Carl Norton (of Longwood, Victoria.)While one of the most challenging experiences of his life, Mr Polidano said it had already inspired the group to take on more challenges.”Five guys living together, camping on the side of the road in swags, I didn’t have a shower for 10 days, we weren’t chasing comfort, we were chasing conditions,” he said.”We got to know each other quite well, the group became quite bonded during that period.”It definitely has [inspired us], just knowing what we can achieve in this trip has sort of made us think about doing some other trips.” (Supplied)
Australian views were ‘absolutely spectacular’Mr Polidano, of Ballina, said the group saw some of the most incredible views that the Australian outback had to offer along the journey.From the Flinders Ranges to the Snowy Mountains, he described some of his experiences as “breathtaking”.”We flew over some indescribably beautiful and remote country, slept under the outback stars and accomplished something that hasn’t been done before,” he said.”We had an opportunity to get up and go for a fly…along the Flinders Ranges and it was absolutely spectacular.”The way the light was hitting the Flinders that evening, it was breathtaking.”The other standout would have to be the flight we did from Khancoban, on the western side of the Snowy Mountains.”That place is exceptionally picturesque — snow-capped mountains, beautiful scenery and quite a contrast to the desert type of country that we were flying in only days before.”Promoting the sport of paramotoringThe Australian-first achievement allowed the group to take a bird’s-eye view of Australia’s spectacular country, all while promoting a sport that the group was passionate about. “We were able to promote our sport of paramotoring by demonstrating the incredible capabilities of our tiny aircraft. Photo:
The pilots travelled across Lake Eyre on the Australian-first journey. Photo:
The pilots travelled from Australia’s lowest point to its highest point.
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The pilots travelled 1600km on their journey from Lake Eyre to Mt Kosciuszko. (Facebook: Australia’s Longest Climb)
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