Motivation and encouragement from fellow competitors inspired a sailor to be representing Australia in the 2017 Invictus Games.
The countdown is on for Petty Officer Maritime Logistics Supply Chain Ian McCracken, who took to swimming to build up his strength on his right side following a stroke at work and will be competing in the swimming events in Toronto, Canada during September.
“Through my work as a support staff member last year at Orlando, I was so inspired to have a go at being an athlete as my medical restrictions enable me to compete and I am absolutely thrilled to have been chosen for this year’s team,” Petty Officer McCracken said.
“I feel privileged to represent my country and our wounded, ill and injured military personnel and veterans.”
The journey, from support crew to participant, was triggered encouragement to compete with Australian and overseas athletes he connected with during his time.
Approximately 180 people expressed an interest of which 90 were asked to try out in a January camp.
“I am in the pool training for at least an hour per day, five times a week plus general fitness and mobility training,” he said.
A normal session for me in the pool will equate to about 1.5 kilometres each time.
“Swimming is part of my rehabilitation and I have had to watch what I eat to make sure I am in the best physical shape I can be whilst continuing to rehabilitate from my injuries,” he said.
“Each time I have participated in the trials my times have got lower and lower and I have achieved a new personal best each camp which is great.
“At the moment I am still seeing a neurologist which I am still having trouble on my right side which has some strength issues.”
Petty Officer McCracken credits his swimming coach Lieutenant Beal, for assisting with his stroke and reducing his lap times which are now on par with the Orlando Finals.
“Without the support of swimming coach - Lieutenant Amy Beal, Navy, my family and friends - this would not have possible,” he said.
“I have dropped 10 kilograms and significantly reduced my cholesterol and I feel fitter which has transferred to home life.”
“I think I am a better person having been involved with these inspirational people, who have taught me that anything is possible no matter how hard it seems.
“My goal is to be successful in the pool in Toronto, make new friends for now and in the future,” he said.
The Invictus Games debutant draws his strength from a competitor who was involved in a helicopter accident in Afghanistan which resulted in three of his commando mates losing their lives.
“The serviceman lost a leg in the accident and spent many months in hospital in Germany,” Petty Officer McCracken said.
“He has not only recovered but was a medallist in Orlando in his swimming category and can only swim one handed as his left hand is pretty useless, he does not grumble just gets in the pool and does the training.
“If he can do it so can I,” he said.
Nominations are open for both athletes and coaches for the 2018 Invictus Games team – and can be made by current and ex-serving wounded, injured and ill personnel.
Info and application forms can be found at http://www.defence.gov.au/Events/InvictusGames/
Follow the team at https://www.facebook.com/team.invictus.australia or www.twitter.com/aussieinvictus