The Green and Golden Couple: Wheelchair Rugby

The Green and Golden Couple: Wheelchair Rugby

Articles Blog

(Chris) I wear this body with pride and
I’m not phased by what my body looks like now. I’ve built a backup to what I use to be
and what I like to present. (Bridie) I was given the option to have plastic
surgery to remove my scars at 18. Instead I went on a trip around the world and
did climb the Eiffel Tower. And to me that’s what I want to do with
my legs, and that’s what they are to me. I don’t have to like them. Some people don’t
like their hair, or their facial features. It’s about accepting your body as it is, and being
happy with yourself every time you look in the mirror. And when I look in the mirror I don’t see
what’s wrong with me. I look in the mirror and I go…
Did I train today hard enough? I’ll happily be out there with my shirt off,
or in short shorts having a swim. It doesn’t really phase me that much anymore.
And I guess people see that and go… Oh well if he can deal with that then there are things
in my life I can probably deal with better. Chris Bond and Bridie Kean have
much in common. Both amputees, both Paralympians
and fiercely competitive. But that’s not what they see in each other. (Bridie) Morning
(Chris) Morning. (Bridie) Are you ready for training already?
(Chris) Yep what are you having for breakfast. (Bridie) Real food! (Chris) When I first met Bridie,
she was Captain of the Gliders. We actually left in a lift in London. And I
didn’t know many other athletes. And we just said hello in passing, and
didn’t think much of it. We had bigger focuses in London
other than our love lives. And when we retured, we went to the ‘Welcome Home
Parade,’ and we were the last couple of people there. And we thought let’s go for a drink
and we got to know each other a little bit. And we respected each other as athletes and
what we’d achieved in London. We had a lot in common from day to day life
to moving interstate for our sport… to then potentially moving overseas
to play our sport. And something about Bridie intrigued me. (Bridie) I remember when I met Chris, one
thing that intrigued me about him was… that I saw him wearing shorts and that
he had similar scars to me. I’m not saying that it’s a drawcard
or anything. But we do have a similar life philosophy and
sometimes that gets us in trouble. Because we spur each other on, when if
one of us had less expectations of life… then we would calm down a bit. Instead there’s
this constant drive to do more and never give up. Sport has become Chris Bond’s life. He took
up wheelchair rugby three years ago. Within a year the Australians were the gold
medalists at the London Paralympics. Their funding depends on staying at the top. In a wheelchair, Chris can do almost anything
but he was never content to stay there. It took him a year of rehab to learn
to walk again. After complications from cancer cost him
his lower limbs and most of his hands. (Chris) In the beginning it’s very painful. The human
body is not made to bear weight on your knees. And it takes a lot of adjusting for your skin and the
pressure to be able to do it semi comfortably. If you have heat issues it’s a struggle because
they are silicon liners and trap heat… so it’s quite uncomfortable in the sun. When I first started it was tiring, like I
wasn’t as fit as I am now. It’s like being a baby again and learning how
to walk, it’s not the same. It’s a lot of one step forward,
and two steps backwards. But now it’s just how I live my life and
I don’t know any different anymore. Usually someone with an amputation
has scars or fragile skin. So I probably couldn’t walk
all day, everyday. But the body does heal and it does adapt very well.
Eventually most people will regain… the ability to walk, if they’ve had amputations, on prosthesis. There are times when it would be easier
to stay in a wheelchair… and not learn to wear prosthetics and
get out and do things for yourself. I’ve had a purpose built unit built on
my house back in Canberra. So, I could still be there with my mum making
meals and washing my clothes if I wanted too. And that might be an easy life, but it doesn’t have
the satisfaction of going out there… and challenging yourself, and making your
own goals, starting your own life… your own passions, and being who
you want to be. Chris and his twin brother grew
up loving sport. At 19, he was in his first job as a trainee chef,
and playing weekend leauge. Overnight he was laid out by what seemed
like a 24-hour gastric bug. No one was prepared for what was to come. (Chris) All I can remember is that they said that
there’s something definitely wrong with you. And we’re going to have to operate, open you up,
look inside and see what’s going on. Chris had leukemia. That diagnoses had only just been delivered… when Chris developed Septicemia –
blood poisoning. (Chris) “Because of the rate that it’s going you may
only have a 50% chance to survive this operation.” “So say goodbye to your family.”
That’s a hard thing at 19 years old. I got about ten seconds with my mum. She said, “I’ll see you when you get out, just be strong,”
and then they wheeled me away. I went into depression at that stage,
pretty heavily and quickly It took a while to get my head around
what had happened… and I couldn’t stop asking myself why
this happened to me. I’ve always had a sense that there are things
I need to achieve yet before I’m done… which pushed me out of feeling sorry
for myself into an active mode… of wanting to contribute back in ways,
maybe to the community… or to other people who have had disability and
gone through what I’ve been through. Chris spent a year battling the Leukemia. Rounds of chemotherapy, therapy
and recovery. Finally well, it was sport that opened up
a new world for him. In the nine years since his amputations,
Chris has completely remodeled his body. (Chris) I need to be strong because my arms
are my legs in some regard. It’s just a part of being in a chair but
then also being an athlete… I do a lot of upper work being a
wheelchair athlete. So, it pays off and why not reap the
rewards of it and embrace it. Chris started to swim competitively,
yet he needed more. He found it when a coach for wheelchair
rugby saw his strength. (Chris) At the camp he got me in a chair, and
there were a few others guys on court… and he said, “You see that guy other there?” He said,
“Push up to him and hit him as hard as you can. I was like, “Hang on is this part of the rules?
Is this for real?” And he said, “Yeah go and have a go.” So I did, pushed up and smashed into him.
And ever since then I just loved it. I love the impact, the contact,
the raw nature of rugby. Three years ago, Chris joined the
National Team. And his talent saw him selected for
the Paralympics in London. (Chris) I’ve always been a fit, athletic guy. So, it’s good to get out there and still
play sport and be athletic. We like to push ourselves to the limit and
see what these bodies can do. And there’s nothing much that stops
me in my own life. And I believe Bridie probably
thinks that way too. In our sports we are the highest
functioning players in our teams. So, we are sort of able bodied anyway in
relation to our other team mates. They see us as able bodied because we do
everything most people standing up would do. So, I think that’s just how I see us and myself. Bridie trains at the same gym. She has had years to adjust to
her amputations. (Bridie) When I was two years old,
I became quite sick. And my mum knew something was wrong
because it presented with flu-like symptoms. But after a couple of days she took me to a local doctor
who saw that a rash was starting to cover my body. A lumbar puncture confirmed that I had
Meningococcal Septicemia. At this point I was extremely sick,
and they were told that I had 12 hours that
would determine whether I would live or die. I started to get better, however the rash had
turned my extremities gangrenous. And following that they were informed that I would
have to have those parts of my legs amputated. So, I had a series of operations growing up. As a child I tried to play able bodied sport.
I was able to walk and run with a little pain. And then when I was 15, I discovered wheelchair basketball. She’s now the Captain of the
Australian Wheelchair Basketball Team, the Gliders. Silver medalists from the London Paralympics. It’s clear to me now that when I play sport,
I focus on what I can do, not what I can’t do. Even as a female and going to
an all-girls school… where there is so much pressure now to
have your body look a certain way. For me, exercise and sport makes me think about
my body in terms of function and what it can do. And when I’m lifting weights I’m thinking… I want to
be strong, not skinny and look like something
I’m never going to look like. As a couple they have so much in common. But they’re fiercely competitive as well,
even on the small points. (Bridie) Neither of us want to lose because
we’re drilled to want to win. And it leads to competitions sometimes over
small things, but it’s always in good fun. We’ve acknowledged that Bridie’s better at
wheelchair basketball and I’m better at wheelchair rugby. (Bridie) And the rest is up for grabs.
(Chris) We’re still working those other things out. Things like how long they’ve been together. (Chris) Bridie’s the “time keeper.” (Bridie) Maybe seven months, two days and three hours. No I’m just kidding. (Chris) I think it’s about five or six months.
(Bridie) No it’s definitely over six. (Chris) There you go.
(Bridie) September, no I think it was August. (Bridie) It’s been a bit of a blur.
(Chris) I’ll give that one to you, I don’t know. (Chris) Bridie invited herself over for dinner.
(Bridie) (Laughs) A dinner date. (Chris) And somehow I was making roast lamb
that night, so I came off looking pretty good. (Bridie) I was on the way to work, so I was stuck in traffic… (Chris) That’s quite a way around to get there… (Bridie) But he didn’t know Brisbane that
well so he didn’t figure it out. (Chris) We’re both pretty new to Brisbane. (Chris) We had a lot in common and we just
found a friendship and comfort in the fact… that we’re both on this journey alone
in this State together. I guess we just fell in love and it sort of works. Beyond sport, Chris and Bridie give their time
to causes that reflect their values. After years of being involved in Canteen,
the teen cancer charity… Chris was asked to take part in a fundraiser for
young adult cancer survivors. (Photographer) Hey how are you?
(Chris) Gidday how’re you going? (Photographer) Good to see you. (Chris) I dragged Bridie into doing it with me.
And we decided that we wanted to embrace the idea. And we got down to our underwear to show that
we are not scared to reveal ourselves… and that every scar tells a story. And that we should
embrace the scars that we have. (Chris) Having never done anything like this
before we didn’t know what to expect. So, it took a lot for us to reveal ourselves with
not wearing not much at all. But we had fun with it and it turned out well. (Photographer) I just adore this one. (Chris) Yeah it just seems very comical to me that photo. I guess, looking at it in an artistic way
I might be able to appreciate it. But, just us, and me at her butt. We had some jokes
about it… her farting on me. (Photographer) There she is, beautiful.
(Chris) I like that photo, yeah. (Chris) I like that one in color, it’s really warm. While they make everything look easy…
Chris and Bridie acknowledge that’s not always the case. (Bridie) I probably look like I always have a lot of
energy and want to run around and do a lot. And then, Chris is probably one of the
few people that I trust enough… to be around and say, “This is hard today.” You roll with those days, and we face them together
I would like to think. And then we move on. (Chris) We’re looked up to as elite athletes
and as role models. I guess, we try and be positive and upbeat
as much as possible. But in the comfort of our own home we
open up to each other and share our thoughts… about maybe being upset about things, or
if we’re having a bad day. But to be honest, 80% is not about disability.
It’s just everyday problems. Today, just a review on my new legs.
I want to check how they are going. And maybe some advice on adjustments
that might make it a little easier. (Prosthetist) How have the prostheses been? (Chris) Pretty good.
I had a wedding last weekend… and I was on them for about five to six hours
straight because I had pants on… and I felt a little sore afterwards, but I think
that’s going to happen anyway. (Prosthetist) Shall we have a look at it then?
(Chris) Yep. (Prosthetist) We’ll often get him to come in and he’ll say,
“I’ve been dancing all night on the limbs at a night club and… out until about 3am, and I’ve got
a bit of a problem with the legs.” And we’ll get a call in the morning,
and he’ll have to come in and see us. But that’s why we do this job. We don’t want
to make a prostheses that’s never used. (Prosthetist) Walk up and down and
we’ll see how it looks. (Chris) It’s feeling pretty good. Not much different with that extra sock on now,
but I could see how it would help later on. (Prosthetist) You can imagine for someone like Chris,
just for him to go for a normal walk for 100 meters… he’s using 50% more energy than you and
I would be just walking normally. So, you can understand when you weight that
up against being in a wheelchair… that it just makes sense for them to
use the wheelchair. But someone like Chris, he won’t accept that and
he’ll do anything to keep his mobility. Chris trains five days a week.
He treats it as his job right now. And the Australian Team is riding high as the gold medalists at the Paralympics. Their next challenge will be the Canada Cup,
a ten nation tournament. (Chris) There are a lot of different ways
you can approach a game. And it does depend on who you are playing. My role, I’m a 3.5 player, so I’m a ball carrier. My job is to take control of the team on court and
get that ball in my hands and score goals. And in defense to be defending any player
or two players at once. International opportunities are there for
those at the top of the game. Chris has been headhunted for the
Texas State Team. (Chris) The American Leauge in wheelchair rugby
is the strongest leauge in the world. So, a lot of players get headhunted to play. I was the same, after London, the
Texas coach lured me in. It can only increase and help develop myself in my
game being over there with the best players in the world. (Coach) Physically in the gym, pound for pound
in a normal mainstream gym… he’d be one of the stronger guys there.
And he’s missing half his bits and pieces. So, not only is he strong here (heart),
he’s strong here (mind), but he’s also physically strong. So, all of those three – strong heart, strong mind, and strong
physically – all put him together to be a fantastic package. Texas will be even hotter than Brisbane,
something Chris struggles with. (Chris) I sweat a lot and my temperature is always
a lot higher than other people. Because I don’t have as much surface area of
my skin as other people… and then some of the skin I do have is skin grafted,
which doesn’t sweat. While Chris plans his season with the
Texas State Team… Bridie is concentrating on her studies. (Bridie) There are amazing opportunities
up here at the moment, and I’m working a lot… and hoping to progress my study by concentrating
on that for six months. So I’m going to relocate up here. There is already a Paralympic Swim
Program here on campus. And it’s a pipe dream, but I would love to see that
happen for wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby. But adapted athletics, because that’s the
environment I had overseas in the U.S. And I think this University offers the same
freshness and facilities… to provide opportunities both in the
academics and the sporting field. She’s also a tutor at the University,
as well as doing a PHD. (Bridie) It’s a study that is actually going to look
at physical activity… and what motivates people and what the
barriers are for people with disabilities. We’re going to look at what motivates
Paralympians. It’s very close to home. But what I really like about it is that it’s looking
at the things that drive people to do things. Not what holds people back.
I want to work in preventative health. I think that prevention is the best cure. So, for that exercise is such a healthy way to even
connect with your own body and focus on what it can do. The fact that I can run now…
it’s probably not good for me to run, so I don’t do it too often because
it is hard on my joints. But it’s something that as a child I didn’t
think I’d ever be able to do. The Australians are on the road.
The Canada Cup is contested by ten nations. And it’s the Canadians who will be
their toughest competition. More than reputation depends on this match.
Maintaining their funding depends on performance. (Chris) They’re one of our big threats going
into World Championships. Mentally, I’ve gone over some video of Canada. We’ll talk strategy soon in our team meeting. But we’ve got to back ourselves, we’ve beaten
Canada many times before. (Chris) It was a pretty tough week.
But we did it in the end… we won the gold medal here at
the Canada Cup. Tough game again, Canada brought it to us and
kept us going the whole game. It’s great. It sends a message to the world that
we’re still here, and we’re still good. We don’t rest on our laurels from London. We’re aiming to win World Champs this year and
then go onto win back to back gold in Rio. Bridie and Chris are fast approaching
a separation of distance. He will be playing in America for six months. And Bridie will relocate to the Sunshine Coast. Opportunities to spend time together
are precious. (Chris) When we get the chance we like to
come out and dine outside. And just embrace the gorgeous
city that we live in. We sacrifice a lot of our social life for our sport,
so we still have to make the time for friends
as well up here that we’ve made. (Bridie) It’s nothing like Melbourne,
which is where I’m from. It’s nice to take it all in and make that effort
to go and sit outside. The Scar Stories book has just
been launched. Chris is at a book signing to promote sales. His story is gathering attention. (Jasmine) Chris has been a really great
advocate for Scar Stories. As he’s been for all the other organizations
he’s worked within the past. Since coming onboard and having his portrait
taken, he’s also our keynote speaker at our book launch. So, we had about 110 people really just
enthralled by his speech. He spoke with grace and he spoke about
his whole experiece with cancer, with the other
organizations and with our organization. (Chris) There you go, enjoy, all yours.
Thank you for coming today. (Lady) Thank you.
(Chris) Cheers, nice to meet you. (Chris) For us, life doesn’t end…
a lot of traumatic things have happened
to myself and Bridie… and it has changed our life, but it
hasn’t changed us as people. When you go out there and show that you
can still be confident… have character and have a presence
even though you may look different than
other people now. You may bear these scars…
and to embrace the scars. (Bridie) Chris is going to Texas and at the same
time I’ve got a lot of work to do
here on campus. Both of us have amazing opportunities
waiting for us, so we’re going to take
them and get each other through them as well. (Chris) When I was 19 years old and
I got really, really sick… I didn’t see much past the week ahead and
didn’t want to see past the week ahead
to be honest. But step by step, and every little milestone,
and every small goal that I accomplished,
doors starting opening for me. And I took those opportunities and
went outside my comfort zone. And followed my dreams and my passion
of being an athlete. And it’s got me a gold medal and a
World Championship medal. It just goes to show that no matter
how low you can get… there’s always some life left to live and it
might just be on another route.

21 thoughts on “The Green and Golden Couple: Wheelchair Rugby”

  1. It is touching and respect, your spirit will overcome any hardship. I truly need to learn from you guys….Aussie Aussie Aussie


  3. Yeah Chris has the most beautiful eyes that I have ever seen, they almost look like a whole new colors. They are like a very bright light blue/ grey?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *