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16 Mitala Street, Newport NSW 2106
Tel: 61 2 9998 3700

 
 

Invictus Games: Outback veteran training in desert to sail for Australia

Updated yesterday at 2:30pm

How do you train for a competitive sailing tournament while living in the desert?

Ask Marcus Wilson from Broken Hill, in far-west New South Wales, who is training for the 2018 Invictus Games.

The former Australian Army gunner and medic, who served for 14 years, has been riding his bike through the outback and mimicking ducking under booms and pulling ropes in the gym in preparation.

He has been selected to represent Australia in the sailing during the Games at which 500 athletes from 18 countries will compete in 11 different sports in Sydney in October.

All competitors are current and ex-military personnel who have been wounded, injured, or become ill during service.

Wilson, who grew up in Brisbane and was introduced to sailing by his father, will be competing in an Elliott seven-metre keelboat with four others.

"It's a sport I really enjoy. My dad introduced me to it when I was knee-high to a grasshopper and I hope to share it with my kids one day," he said.

Currently the manager of the Royal Flying Doctor Service base in Broken Hill, Wilson is proud of overcoming the challenges his geographical location has presented to training.

"Because I am by myself, it's required a lot more self-motivation and digging internally to get myself out here each day," he said.

"In summer there were days when it was far too hot, and I didn't want to get up at five o'clock to ride, but I got there."

'Wild dream' to sail in Games

A recipient of both a bravery medal and a nursing service cross, Wilson suffered numerous musculoskeletal injuries while serving in the army.

 

"I damaged my spinal cord and for a period of about five years, I was unable to walk, stand, or sit very long," he said.

"Thankfully we found the right medication to get me back to work but between the nerve damage and my shoulder, that's what really limits my abilities."

Wilson said he was thrilled to have overcome so many physical difficulties to make it into the team and has travelled to Sydney several times to attend training camps.

"It was just a wild dream not even 12 months ago, just something to motivate myself and get out and meet people," he said.

"It's only 45 days away now and I'm just pinching myself that it's even real."

Bringing skills to team

Sports competition manager for sailing at the Invictus Games, Tom Spithill, said he was impressed by Wilson's commitment to his training, especially living so far from the ocean.

"There's no shortcut for on-water time, but guys like Marcus really put in," he said.

"These guys, when they come down and train, they know they can't take the on-water time for granted."

Mr Spithill said Wilson was bringing crucial skills to the team.

"Marcus generally seems like a pretty calm guy and they're going to find themselves in situations on race day that don't go their way," he said.

"Sometimes there can be an element of luck in there, so you've got to have a good crew that can shake off any of those bits of ill luck and keep the team motivated and focussed.

"I think that may be where Marcus will be able to put a positive spin on some situations."

 

 

Overcoming adversity

Mr Spithill said working with the Invictus Games had been rewarding for both veterans and the broader sporting community.

 

"I think the guys revel in that chance to work again with one another and be in that team environment [and] they've got a bit of a goal to work towards," he said.

"That's one of the great things about the Invictus Games.

"A lot of guys may have been sitting inside, not coming out of the house for long periods of time and through the sport, it's got them involved with the sailing community.

"Marcus is known around our yacht club by all our other members and I think he's found a couple of friendships — in the Invictus Games and also in the sailing community."

Mr Wilson said he hoped the Games would motivate other people with injuries or disabilities to get into sport.

"Just showing that ordinary people like me can overcome injures and get out," he said.

"I hope it inspires other people to do the same for themselves; that people look at us and think 'I could do that too'."

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