JCU program delivers its first Invictus Games competitor
A JCU program helping veterans thrive physically and mentally has had a big win, with one of its participants selected for the prestigious Invictus Games.
Former Army truck driver Ainsley Hooker, who had her right leg amputated below the knee, will represent Australia at the Games in Dusseldorf this September.
“During my service, I injured my ankle very badly and I went on to be rejected by 14 different surgeons who saw my injury as being too high-risk and too complicated to do anything,” she said.
“After 13 years of walking around with a dead limb, I wanted to get my life back and after talking with several experts, I chose to become a below-knee amputee three years ago.
“It’s been the best decision I ever made.”
The Townsville mum said she was thrilled to be competing for her country in wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and athletics and credited JCU’s Veterans Physical Activity and Sports Performance Program with helping her to get selected.
The brainchild of JCU Lecturer in Exercise Physiology and Army Veteran Brian Heilbronn, the Program offers general health and performance testing, individualised training programs, one-on-one training sessions, and access to state-of-the-art training facilities at the University’s Performance Science Hub in Townsville.
“After my amputation, I was feeling embarrassed. I didn’t know how people would accept it or how I’d feel about it in public,” Mrs Hooker said.
“My husband heard about the program on the radio and said I needed to do this. He’s been my big push. Just having that set time with the students and Brian every week to get in there and just work out has been amazing.”
Mr Heilbronn said he was incredibly proud of Mrs Hooker’s selection.
“We have been working with Ainsley since August last year, so it has been great to see her make progress towards her goal of making the Invictus Games Team,” he said.
“We focus a lot on developing Ainsley’s strength and power. As she is competing in wheel chair rugby, discus and shot put, she needs a lot of explosive power, so it’s a combination of heavy lifting and speed work to develop her capacity for those sports.”
Mr Heilbronn said Mrs Hooker’s success proved that the Program was capable of helping veterans achieve their personal health goals.
“Regardless of whether those goals are for the Invictus Games, social sports or general health and fitness, we have the knowledge, facilities and desire to help our veterans achieve their goals,” he said.
“With Townsville being a garrison city and a very active town, I think there are a lot of opportunities for our program to help veterans achieve their fitness and sporting goals, regardless of what they might be.”
Media enquiries: email@example.com